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STEEL, 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR' 



Uniform with this Volume 
Price 6/- net each 

THE SECRET GARDEN, by FRANCES 
HODGSON BURNETT, author of "The 
Shuttle," etc., illustrated by CHARLES 
ROBINSON. 

THE FOUR GARDENS, by HAND- 
ASYDE," illustrated by CHARLES 
ROBINSON. 

ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WON- 
DERLAND, by LEWIS CARROLL, illus- 
trated by ARTHUR RACKHAM. 

JESOPS FABLES, translated by V. S. 
VERNON JONES, with an introduction 
by G. K. CHESTERTON, illustrated by 
ARTHUR RACKHAM. 



LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN 
21, BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE ADVENTURES 
OF AKBAR. 

V 

FLORA-ANNIE STEEL 

ILLVSTRATED BY BYAM SHAW 






y 



LONDON-WILLIAM HEINFMANN 1915 



Supplied by 

MINAR BOOK AGENCY 

Exporters of Books & Periodicals 

204, Ghadialy Building, Saddar 

KARACHI-3. PAKISTAN 




All rights reserved 



A DEDICATION 



Oft when the house lay silent in the heat 

My thoughts would be so full of you, my sweet, 

That dreaming half I seemed to hear once more 

Your little fingers fluttering at the door, 

The pitter patter of your childish feet 

In joyous rhythm cross the echoing floor. 

Then small, soft hands would nestle into mine, 
And warm soft arms around my neck would twine, 
As soft and warm the dream child on my knees, 
Cuddling so close in clear young voice would tease 
And tease and tease in mimicked glad young whine 
For "Just one little story if you please/' 

So half in jest and half in earnest, too, 
Mostly I think to dream my dreaming true, 
I'd conjure up long tales of lands afar 
And days gone by that yet remembered are ; 
Shaping my stories with this end in view 
To gain the verdict "Tell some more, Mamma." 

For I was happy when I had beguiled 
Into my life the spirit of a child. 
Thus one by one the weary hours flew 
And page by page a little volume grew, 
go that my dreams with truth be reconciled, 
Take it, my darling, it was writ for you. 

April, 1875 

Long years have sped since that poor book was penned. 

None read the pages. Therefore at the end 

Of this world's life I dedicate to two 

Small boys her sons whose question'ng eyes of blue 

Tell me that dreams of childhood never end 

This book. So take it boys 'twas writ for you. 

1911 



PREFACE 

THIS book is written for all little lads and lasses, 
but especially for the former, since it is the true quite 
true story of a little lad who lived to be, perhaps, the 
greatest king this world has ever seen. 

It is a strange, wild tale this of the adventures of 
Prince Akbar among the snowy mountains between 
Kandahar and Kabul, and though the names may be 
a bit of a puzzle at first, as they will have to be learned 
by and bye in geography and history lessons, it might 
be as well to get familiar with them in a story-book; 
though, indeed, as everybody in it except Roy the 
Rajput, Meroo the cook boy; Tumbu, the dog; and 
Down, the cat (and these four may have been true, 
you know, though they have not been remembered) 
really lived, I don't know whether this book oughtn't 
to be considered real history, and therefore 

A LESSON BOOK 

Anyhow, I hope you won't find it dull. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 
PREFACE 

CHAPTER I 

FAREWELL ...; 

CHAPTER II 

THE FIRST VICTORY .... .11 

CHAPTER III 

THE ROYAL UMBRELLA 20 

CHAPTER IV 

TUMBU-DOWN .. 27 

CHAPTER V 

ON THE ROAD 

CHAPTER VI 

AT COURT > .50 

CHAPTER VII 

WINTER 5& 

CHAPTER VIII 

DOWN'S STRATAGEM ... .68 

CHAPTER IX 

77 
SPRING 

CHAPTER X 

THE NIGHT OF RECORD .... 

V 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER XI 

A WINTER MARCH 100 

CHAPTER XII 

SNOW AND ICE 109 

CHAPTER XIII 

OVER THE PASS 119 

CHAPTER XIV 

IN THE VALLEY 128 

CHAPTER XV 

DEAREST-LADY 138 

CHAPTER XVI 

CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN 147 

CHAPTER XVII 

IMPRISONMENT 159 

CHAPTER XVIII 

THE GARDEN OF GAMES 169 

CHAPTER XIX 

BETWIXT CUP AND LIP 178 

CHAPTER XX 

ESCAPED 187 

CHAPTER XXI 
DAWN . . . 196 



vi 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



ON A SHELVING BANK OF DRY SAND BABY AKBAR 

SITTING UP AND RUBBING HIS EYES . Frontispiece 

To face page 
PRINCE ASKURRY .... STRODE .... INTO 

THE TENT ....... 16 

THE CHILD HAD SLIPPED IT ONTO HIS LITTLE 

FOREFINGER 62 

SO THEY BOTH TOUCHED THE COLD MARBLE FLOOR 

WITH THEIR WARM LITTLE FOREHEADS . 98 

AHEAD OF THEM, A SHADOW SHOWED, A SHAMBLING 
SHADOW ! TUMBU .... WITH A BOUND 

WAS OFF FULL TILT AFTER IT . . . 126 

AND ONE DAY THE DOOR DID OPEN .... " MY 

SON MY LITTLE SON!" . . . 166 

"LADIES! UNVEIL!" 176 

"I STAY MY HAND WHILE I COUNT TEN NO 

MORE" 198 



vii 



CHAPTER I 

FAREWELL 

Bismillah Al-la-hu Akbar! 

THESE queer-looking, queer-sounding words, which 
in Arabic mean "thanks be to God," were shrilled out 
at the very top of Head-nurse's voice. Had she been 
in a room they would have filled it and echoed back 
from the walls ; for she was a big, deep-chested woman. 
But she was only in a tent; a small tent, which had 
been pitched in a hurry in an out-of-the-way valley 
among the low hills that lead from the wide plains 
of India to Afghanistan. For Head-nurse's master 
and mistress, King Humayon and Queen Humeeda, 
with their thirteen months' old little son, Prince 
Akbar, were flying for their lives before their enemies. 
And these enemies were led by Humayon's own 
brothers, Prince Kumran, Askurry and Hindal. It 
is a long story, and a sad story, too, how Humayon, 
so brave, so clever, so courteous, fell into misfortune 
by his own fault, and had to fly from his beautiful 
palaces at Delhi and wander for years, pursued like 
a hare, amid the sandy deserts and pathless plains of 
Western India. And now, as a last resource, his fol- 
lowers dwindled to a mere handful, he was making a 

1 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

desperate effort to escape over the Persian border and 
claim protection at the hands of Persia's King. 

So the poor tent was ragged and out at elbows, for 
all that it was made of costly Kashmir shawls, and 
that its poles were silver-gilt. 

But Head-nurse's "Thanks be to God!" came from 
a full heart. 

"What is it? What is it?" called an anxious voice 
from behind the curtain which divided the tent in two. 

"What?" echoed Head-nurse in high glee. "Only 
this : His Imperial Highness, Prince Akbar, the Ad- 
mired-of -the- World, the Source-of -Dignity, the Most- 
Magnificent-Person-of-the-Period " She went on, 
after her wont, rolling out all the titles that belonged 
of right to the little Prince, until the soft, anxious 
voice lost patience and called again, "Have done 
have done; what is it? Heaven save he hath not been 
in danger." 

Head-nurse, stopped in her flow of fine words, 
sniffed contemptuously. "Danger! with me to guard 
him? No! 'Tis that the High-in-Pomp hath cut his 
first real back tooth ! He can eat meat ! He has come 
to man's estate! He is no longer dependent upon 
milk diet." Here she gave a withering glance at the 
gentle looking woman who was Baby Akbar 's wet- 
nurse, who, truth to tell, was looking just a little sad 
at the thought that her nursling would soon leave her 
consoling arms. 
2 



FAREWELL 

"Heavens!" exclaimed the voice from within, "say 
you so?" And the next instant the curtain parted, 
and there was Queen Humeeda, Baby Akbar 's 
mother, all smiling and eager. 

Now, if you want to know what she was like, you 
must just think of your own dearest dear rnummie. At 
least that was what she seemed to little Prince Akbar, 
who, at the sight of her, held out his little fat arms 
and crowed, "Amma! Amma!" Now, this, you will 
observe, is only English "Ma-Ma" arranged differ- 
ently; from which you may guess that English and 
Indian children are really very much alike. 

And Queen Humeeda took the child and kissed 
him and hugged him just as any English mother 
would have done. Head-nurse, however, was not a 
bit satisfied with this display of affection. That 
would have been the portion of any ordinary child, 
and Baby Akbar was more than that: he was the heir 
apparent to the throne of India! If he had only been 
in the palaces that belonged to him, instead of in a 
miserable tent, there would have been ceremonials 
and festivities and fireworks over this cutting of a 
tooth! Aye! Certainly fireworks. But how could 
one keep up court etiquette when royalty was flying 
for its life? Impossible! Why, even her determina- 
tion that, come what might, a royal umbrella must be 
held over the blessed infant during their perilous jour- 
neys had very nearly led to his being captured! 

3 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Despite this recollection, as she listened impatiently 
to the cooings and gurglings, she turned over in her 
mind what she could do to commemorate the occasion. 
And when pretty Queen Humeeda (thinking of her 
husband, the king, who, with his few followers, had 
ridden off to see if a neighboring chief would help 
them) said, "This will be joyful news wherewith to 
cheer my lord on his return," Head-nurse's irritation 
found voice. 

"That is all very well," she cried. "So it would 
be to any common father of any common child, Your 
Royal Highness! This one is the Admired-of-the- 
Whole-World, the Source-of-Dignity, the Most- 
Magnificent-Person-of-the-Period " 

And she went on rolling out queer guttural Arabic 
titles till Foster-mother implored her to be silent or she 
would frighten the child. Could she not see the look 
on the darling's face? 

For Baby Akbar was indeed listening to something 
with his little finger up to command attention. But 
it was not to Head-nurse's thunderings, but to the 
first long, low growl of a coming storm that outside 
the miserable tent was turning the distant hills to 
purple and darkening the fast-fading daylight. 

"Frighten?" echoed Head-nurse in derision. "The 
son of Humayon the heroic, the grandson of Baber 
the brave could never be frightened at anything!" 

And in truth the little lad was not a bit afraid, even 
4 



FAREWELL 

when a distant flash of lightning glimmered through 
the dusk. 

"Heavens!" cried gentle Queen Humeeda, "his 
Majesty will be drenched to the skin ere he returns." 
She was a brave woman, but the long, long strain of 
daily, hourly danger was beginning to tell on her 
health, and the knowledge that even this coming storm 
was against them brought the tears to her eyes. 

"Nay! Nay! my royal mistress," fussed Head- 
nurse, who, in spite of her love of pomp, was a kind- 
hearted, good woman, "this must not be on such an 
auspicious day. It must be celebrated otherwise, and 
for all we are so poor, we can yet have ceremonial. 
When the child was born were we not in direst danger? 
Such danger that all his royal father could do in honor 
of the glad event was to break a musk-bag before his 
faithful followers as sign that the birth of an heir 
to empire would diffuse itself like perfume through 
the whole world? Even so now, and if I cannot devise 
some ceremony, then am I no Head-nurse!" 

So saying she began to bustle around, and ere long 
even poor, unhappy Queen Humeeda began to take 
an interest in the proceedings. 

A mule trunk, after being ransacked for useful 
odds and ends, was put in a corner and covered with 
a worn satin quilt. This must do for a throne. And 
a strip of red muslin wound about the little gold- 
embroidered skull cap Baby Akbar wore must, with 

5 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

the heron's plume from his father's state turban, make 
a monarch of the child. 

In truth he looked very dignified indeed, standing 
on the mule trunk, his little legs very wide apart, his 
little crimson silk trousers very baggy, his little green 
brocade waistcoat buttoned tight over his little fat 
body, and, trailing from his shoulders in great stiff 
folds, his father's state cloth-of-gold coatee embroid- 
ered with seed pearls. 

So, as he always wore great gold bracelets on his 
little fat arms, and great gold jingling anklets fring- 
ing his little fat feet, he looked very royal indeed. 
Very royal and large and calm, for he was a grave 
baby with big, dark, piercing eyes and a decided chin. 

"He is as like his grandfather as two splits of a 
pea!" cried Head-nurse in rapture, and then she went 
to the tent door and shrilled out : 

"Slaves! Quick! Come and perform your lowly 
salute on the occasion of the cutting of a back tooth 
belonging to the Heir-to-Empire, the Most " 

She cut short her string of titles, for a crash of 
thunder overhead warned her she had best be speedy 
before the rain soaked through the worn tent. 

"Quick, slaves!" she added; "keep us not waiting all 
day. Enter and prostrate yourselves on the ground 
with due reverence ! Quick ! Quick !" 

She need not have been in such a hurry, for it did 
not take long for the "slaves," as she called them, to 
6 



FAREWELL 

perform their lowly salaam by touching the very 
ground with their foreheads. There were but three 
of them Old Faithful, the trooper; Roy, the Rajput 
boy; and Meroo, the scullion; the rest were away with 
their master, King Humayon. 

Old Faithful, however, tall, lank, grey-bearded, 
brought enough devotion for half a dozen followers. 
He had served with little Akbar's grandfather, Babar 
the brave, and when he saw the child standing so fair 
and square, he gave almost a sharp cry of remem- 
brance and delight. And when he stood up after his 
prostration, in soldier fashion he held out the hilt of 
his old sword for the baby to touch in token that its 
service was accepted. Queen Humeeda, who stood be- 
side her little son, guided his fat fingers to the sword; 
but at the very moment a vivid flash of lightning made 
her give a shriek and cover her face with her hands. 
But little Prince Akbar having got a hold of the hilt, 
would not let go. And to Old Faithful's huge delight 
he pulled and pulled till the sword came out of the 
scabbard. 

"An omen! An omen!" cried the old man. "Like 
his grandfather, he will fight battles ere he be twelve!" 

Then there was Roy, the Rajput lad, whom the 
royal fugitives had found half dead from sunstroke 
in the wide, sandy Rajputana deserts, and whom, 
with their customary kindness, they had succoured and 
befriended, putting him on as a sort of page boy to 

7 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

the little Heir-to-Empire. He was a tall, slim lad 
for his twelve years, was Roy, with a small, well-set 
head and a keen, well-cut face. And his eyes! They 
were like a deer's large, brown, soft, but with a flash 
in them at times. 

For the sunstroke which had so nearly killed the 
lad had left his mind a little confused. As yet he 
could remember nothing of what had happened to him 
before it, and could not even recollect who he was, or 
anything save that his name was Roy. But every now 
and again he would say something or do something 
which would make those around him look surprised, 
and wonder who he could have been to know such 
things and have such manners. 

After him came Meroo, the misshapen cook-boy. 
He was an odd fellow, all long limbs and broad smiles, 
who, when his time arrived, shambled forward, cast 
himself in lowliest reverence full length on the ground 
and blubbered out his delight now that the princely 
baby could really eat at being able to supply all 
sorts of toothsome stews full of onions and green 
ginger, to say nothing of watermelons and sugar cane. 
These things, strange to say, being to little Indian 
children very much what chocolate creams and toffee 
are to English ones. 

So far all had gone well, and now there only re- 
mained one more salute to be made. But little Adam, 
who was Head-nurse's own son, and who had hitherto 
8 



FAREWELL 

been Baby Akbar's playmate, refused absolutely to 
do as he was bid. He was a short, sturdy boy of five, 
and nothing would induce him to go down on his 
knees and touch the ground with his forehead. In 
vain Meroo, the cook-boy, promised him sweets if he 
would only obey orders ; in vain Old Faithful spoke 
of a ride on his old war-horse, and Roy, who was a 
most wonderful story-teller, promised him the best 
of all, Bopuluchi. In vain his mother, losing patience 
at such a terrible piece of indecorum, rushed at 
him and cuffed him soundly. He only howled and 
kicked. 

And then suddenly Baby Akbar, who had been 
listening with a solemn face, brought his little bare 
foot down on the mule trunk with such a stamp that 
the golden anklets jingled and jangled, and his little 
forefinger went up over his head in the real Eastern 
attitude of royal command. 

"Salute, slave, salute," he said with a tremendous 
dignity. And there was something so comical about 
the little mite of a child, something so masterful in 
the tiny figure, something so commanding in the loud, 
deep-toned baby voice, that every one laughed, and 
somehow or other Adam forgot his obstinacy and 
made his obeisance like a good boy. 

And then once more pretty Queen Humeeda 
hugged and kissed her little son, and all the rest ap- 
plauded him, and made so much of him that he began 

9 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

to think he had done something very fine indeed, and 
crowed and clapped his hands in delight. 

But the merriment did not last long, for there was 
a clatter of horses and swords outside the tent. 

"My husband!" cried Queen Humeeda in a flutter. 
"What news does my lord bring?" 



10 



CHAPTER II 

THE FIRST VICTORY 

THE next moment a tall, handsome man entered the 
tent ; but one look at his pale, anxious face was enough 
to tell those inside that the news was bad. So for 
an instant there was silence; and in the silence, with 
a deafening roar and a blinding blaze of blue light, 
came a terrific crash of thunder followed by a sudden 
fierce pelt of hail upon the taut tent roof. 

It sent a shiver through the listeners. They felt 
that the storm had broken indeed upon their heads, 
that danger was close beside them. 

Then the King stepped to his wife's side and took 
her hand, and as he spoke there was a sob in his breath 
as of an animal who after a long chase finds himself at 
last driven to bay. 

"Come!" he said briefly, "there may yet be a chance 
for us. My horse, weary though it be, will suffice for 
thy light weight. In the mountains lies possible 
safety. Come! There is not a moment to lose." 

"But but the child" faltered the Queen. 

King Humayon's voice failed him. He could not 
speak for a moment ; but he shook his head. 

"I will not leave the child " began the wretched 
mother. "My lord ! thou canst not have the heart " 

"It is his only chance " interrupted the poor King, 

11 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

his face full of grief and anger, of bitter, bitter re- 
gret "His only chance of life ! In the mountains yon- 
der, with winter snow upon us, lies certain death for 
one so young. Were we to stay with him here, he 
would find death with us for my brother Askurry 
is close behind us. But if we are gone, God knows, 
but he might spare the child. Askurry is not all un- 
kind, and the little lad favors my father so much that 
his blessed memory may be safeguard. God send it 
so. It is his best chance, his only chance. So 
come " 

"I cannot! I cannot!" moaned the poor mother 
distractedly. 

"There is no other way, sweetheart!" said the King, 
"so be brave, little mother, and come for thy son's 
sake. He will be safer here than wth thee. Come ! 
trusting in God's mercy for the child. And come 
quickly while the darkness of the storm shrouds our 
going." 

Then he looked round on those others Head- 
nurse, Wet-nurse, Old Faithful, Roy the Rajput, and 
Meroo the cook-boy not much of a bodyguard for 
the young prince, and yet, since force would be use- 
less, perhaps as good as any other, if they had a head 
between them. But the nurses were women, Faithful 
nothing but an old soldier, and the two others were 
mere boys. Some one else must be left. Who ? Then 
he remembered Foster-father, Foster-mother's hus- 
12 



THE FIRST VICTORY 

band. He was the man. Solid, sober, clear-headed. 
So, as Queen Humeeda was being hurriedly wrapped 
in a shawl by the two weeping nurses, he gave them a 
few directions. They were to stay where they were, 
no matter what happened, until Foster-father re- 
turned from showing the fugitives a path he knew to 
the mountains, and then 

King Humayon could say no more. Only as, after 
a hurried, tearless, hopeless farewell to his little son, 
he paused at the tent door to take a last look, his half- 
fainting wife in his arms, he said suddenly in a sharp, 
loud voice: 

"Remember! In your charge lies the safety of the 
H eir- to-Empire. " 

The words sank into the very hearts of those who 
stood watching the group of hurrying figures making 
its way rapidly toward the hills. 

"Pray Heaven," muttered Old Faithful anxiously, 
"that they be over the rise before those who follow 
see them." 

So they stood fearfully watching, watching. And 
Heaven was kind, for though one great blue blaze of 
lightning showed the fugitives clear against the sky 
line, when the next came there was nothing but the 
rugged rocks. 

Then for the first time Baby Akbar, who had been 
silent in his nurses' arms, watching with the rest, lifted 
up his deep-toned baby voice: 

13 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

"Daddy, Amma," he said contentedly, "gone up 
in a 'ky." 

Whereupon Foster-mother wept loudly and prayed 
that good angels might protect her darling. 

But Head-nurse was more practical, and set about 
considering how best that safety might be secured. 
Who was there who could help ? No one of much use, 
truly, though every one was brimful of devotion and 
ready to give his or her life for the Heir-to-Empire. 

"I will kill the first man who dares " began Old 
Faithful. 

"Aye! The first! But how about the last, old 
man?" interrupted Head-nurse. "Force will be of 
no avail. Askurry hath half an army with him." 

"Harm shall only come to the child through my 
body," wept Foster-mother, whereat Head-nurse 
laughed scornfully. 

"Woman's flesh is a poor shield, fool! God send 
we find better protection than thy carcass." 

"Boo! hoo!" blubbered Meroo the cook-boy. "Lo! 
Head-nurse ! I could kill a whole army by poisoning 
their suppers." 

Head-nurse nodded faint approval. "Now, there 
is some sense in that, scullion, but what about that they 
may do supperless? If they should dare " 

"They will not dare," said a clear, sharp voice, and 
Roy the Rajput lad stepped forward, a light in his 
great eyes. "My mother used to say, Tear not! A 
14 



THE FIRST VICTORY 

king's son is a king's son always, so be that he forgets 
not kingship.' ' 

Head-nurse stood puzzled for a second, then she 
caught the meaning of the lad's words, for she was a 
clever, capable woman, and had all a woman's quick- 
ness. 

"Thou art right, my lad," she said slowly, looking 
curiously at Roy, from whose face the flash of mem- 
ory seemed to have passed. "Thou art right. In 
royalty lies safety. The Heir-to-Empire must receive 
his enemies as a King ! Quick ! slaves ! Close the tent 
door and let us bring forth all we have, and make all 
things as regal as we can. There is no time to lose." 

And they did not lose any. The result being that 
when, quarter of an hour afterward, Prince Askurry, 
bitterly disappointed at finding that his real quarry, 
the King and Queen, had escaped, strode with some of 
his followers into the tent where he was told Baby 
Akbar was to be found, he paused at the door, first in 
astonishment and then in amusement. 

It was really rather a pretty picture which he saw. 
To begin with the tent had been lit up with the little 
rushlight lamps they call in India chiragJis tiny 
saucers which can be made of mud in which a cotton 
wick floats in a few drops of oil and a row of these 
outlined the mule trunk throne. Then Meroo's mis- 
shapen limbs had been hidden under a chain corselet 
and helmet, so he made quite a respectable fellow to 

15 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Old Faithful, as the two supporters stood bolt upright 
with drawn swords one on either side, while beneath 
them, on the ragged old Persian carpet which had 
been spread to hide the dirty tent drugget, crouched 
Head-nurse and Foster-mother, their faces veiled with 
their best gold embroidered veils. 

A great pile of cushions had been placed on the 
muletrunk, and in the centre of these sat Baby Ak- 
bar, the Royal heron's plume of his turban waving 
gently in the breeze caused by the slow dignified 
sweep of the Royal fan which Roy, who stood behind 
his young master, was swinging backwards and for- 
wards. 

But it was not the prettiness of the picture which 
made Prince Askurry pause. It was the child's open 
fearless face which reminded him at once as King 
Humayon had hoped it might of that dear, beloved 
father whose memory, even in their worst wicked- 
nesses, was ever a good influence in the lives of 
his sons. Babar the Brave! Babar of the Gen- 
erous Heart! the Kindly Smile! Who could forget 
him? 

But behind Prince Askurry were others who did 
not remember; who were eager to kill and have done 
with Humayon and his son for ever. 

And when they saw Prince Askurry pause, they 
were quick with advice. 

"It is unwise to spare snakes' spawn," said one. 
16 



THE FIRST VICTORY 

"The boy is father to the man," said another. "He 
who is wise kills young rats as well as old ones." 

And still Prince Askurry paused while poor Head- 
nurse and Wet-nurse went sick with fear under their 
veils at what might be going to happen, and Old 
Faithful's hand clasped the hilt of his sword tighter, 
since come what may he meant to strike one blow for 
his young master. But Roy's keen eyes showed as 
the peacock's feather fan swept past them backwards 
and forwards like a hawk's as it hovers above a par- 
tridge. There was in them a defiance, a certainty that 
victory must come. 

Suddenly a wicked laugh filled the tent. "Peace I 
brothers," said a sneering voice, "Prince Askurry pre- 
fers to leave the snake to fight with his own son in the 
future." 

The taunt told. It was true! Better to scotch the 
snake now, than to leave it to be dangerous by and by; 
dangerous perhaps to his own little son who was but a 
few years older than Baby Akbar. 

Prince Askurry strode forward drawn sword in 
hand; but whether he really meant to use it or not 
cannot be told, for a very strange thing happened. 
Baby Akbar had been listening to the fierce voices 
just as he had listened to the angry voices when Adam 
had refused to salute. And now he saw some one be- 
fore him who appeared to have no intention as 
Adam had no intention of making his reverence ; so, 

IT 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

remembering the fine thing he had done when the lat- 
ter had been naughty, up went the little hand again, 
and once more the loud, deep, baby voice said im- 
periously: 

"Salute! Slave! salute!" 

The words were barely uttered when by pure chance 
Prince Askurry's foot caught in the ragged carpet, 
and ? 

And down he came flat as a pancake on the floor 
in the very lowliest salute that ever was made ! 

The next moment, however, he sat up, half -stunned, 
and looked wrathf ully at his little nephew. 

But Baby Akbar's honest open face was full of 
grieved sympathy. 

"Poor, poor!" he said, shaking his quaintly crowned 
head, "tumbu down. Nanna kiss it, make it well." 

Prince Askurry sat stupidly staring for a moment 
or two. Then the memory of many a childish hurt 
cured by like gracious offer from his father came back 
to him, making his heart soft. He sprang to his feet 
and waved by his councillors to cruelty. 

"Go, my lords!" he cried fiercely. "Go seek the 
King who is no true King if ye will, and kill him. But 
this boy goes with me to Kandahar; the stuff of which 
he is made counts for life, not for death." 

Then with a sudden generous impulse, for he was at 
heart his father's son, he held the hilt of his drawn 
sword in token of vassalage for Baby Akbar to touch. 
18 



THE FIRST VICTORY 

And the child, clever, observant beyond his years, 
remembering how his mother had guided his fingers to 
Old Faithful's weapon, put out his little hand 
solemnly and touched it. 

Behind their close-folded veils Head-nurse and 
Wet-nurse wept for joy. And the old trooper's grip 
relaxed and the hard relentless look faded from Roy's 
face. 

For here was safety, for a while at any rate, for the 
Heir-to-Empire. 

He, and Fate between them, had won his first vic- 
tory. No ! his second, since the first had been the con- 
quering of Adam's obstinacy. 

But for that Baby Akbar might not have behaved 
with such dignity. 



19 



CHAPTER III 

THE ROYAL UMBRELLA 

THAT night even Roy the Rajput, who as a rule 
woke every hour to see to his little master's safety, 
slept sound. And so did the others, though they sat 
up till Foster-father crept in to the tent about mid- 
night, after having seen the Royal Fugitives safely 
over the Persian border. Of course, there was nothing 
but miles on miles of snowy mountains before them, 
nothing but long struggle and privation to be hoped 
for; still they were out of India, out of an enemy's 
country. For which Heaven be thanked! 

So they wrapped themselves in their quilts and lay 
down to rest with hearts eased for the time of im- 
mediate anxiety. 

Head-nurse, however, began at once, after her wont, 
to make plans for resuming some of the courtly ways 
which hurry had made impossible. The gold embroid- 
ered royal red umbrella was one thing she was deter- 
mined to have. 

But who was to hold it over the Royal Infant? Roy 
would get tired of it during a long march. He was 
but a boy; and after all there should be a Deputy, 
Assistant, Second, Umbrella Bearer to Majesty. 

Could Meroo, properly dressed, of course, be pro- 
moted to the position? 
20 



THE ROYAL UMBRELLA 

She actually woke Foster-father from his well- 
earned first sleep to propound this knotty question. 

"Good woman," he murmured patiently, "make 
what court appointments ye will. Create the scullion 
Prime Minister, so I have my sleep." 

And he was snoring almost before the words were 
out of his mouth. 

So next morning Head-nurse, refusing the baggage 
camel with panniers which Prince Askurry sent for 
the use of the little Heir-to-Empire, organised a pro- 
cession of her own. 

First of all came Foster-father, stout and solid, on 
his skew-bald hill pony which was called Horse-chest- 
nut because it was patched all over, like an unripe 
chestnut, with yellow, brown and white. 

It had a lovely tail that touched the ground, and a 
coat that was long and wavy like an Irish setter's. A 
wise, sober pony was Horse-chestnut; he never at- 
tempted to climb up anything he thought too difficult, 
but just gave a look at it to make sure and then put 
down his head calmly, and began to graze until his 
rider found an easier path. 

Next came Trooper Faithful on his old white 
charger Lightning. Once upon a time it had been 
like its name, swift exceedingly, but now, like its mas- 
ter, it was slow and stiff. 

Then followed Head-nurse, astride, in Indian fash- 
ion, the bay Belooch mare which had been Queen 

21 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Humeeda's favourite mount until it had had to be left 
behind in one of the hasty moves which had of late 
been so common in the hunted life of the Royal Fugi- 
tives. The mare, of course, had been taken by the 
pursuers, and brought along with them; and the 
groom in charge of it had come grinning with delight 
to Foster-father when he found himself in the same 
camp again. Foster-father was for riding the bay 
mare himself and giving sober Horse-chestnut to the 
Heir-to-Empire, but Head-nurse would not hear of 
this. The bay mare was, she said, altogether more 
royal. So there she was, with Baby Akbar astride 
a cushion in front, perched on the skittish creature, 
feeling at heart very nervous, for she was but a poor 
rider. However, she held on very tight with one hand, 
held Baby Akbar still tighter with the other, and 
trusted to Providence, while Roy and Meroo ran be- 
side her on either side, alternately holding up the 
Royal Umbrella as best they could. 

Foster-mother on a mule, with little Adam perched 
in front of her brought up the rear of the procession. 
It was a poor one for progress even along the levels, 
because of the bay mare's fidgeting and caperings, 
but when the steep hill sides were reached it became 
impossible to keep up with the rest of the equipage. 
So Prince Askurry and his men pushed on ahead 
leaving the little party alone, since escape was im- 
possible on that wild mountain road, especially with 
22 



THE ROYAL UMBRELLA 

the rear guard of the camp coming a few miles behind 
them. And, indeed, if such an idea had entered the 
heads of any of the party it must soon have fled be- 
fore the difficulty of getting along at all. It was a 
steep zigzag path, and looking upwards you could see 
it zigging and zagging right away to the sky line. 
Poor Foster-mother, who came last, could not take 
her eyes off it, for the bends immediately above her 
were filled with the most terrifying sights. First her 
stout husband, who seemed to be in the act of slipping 
over Horse-chestnut's tail. On the next Old Faith- 
ful, driven to dismounting and laboriously lugging 
Lightning up by the bridle. But the last zig-zag in 
front of her called forth piercing shrieks. For the 
bay mare, not having been ridden for some time, was 
full of beans. Baby Akbar insisted on holding the 
reins, and Meroo, whose turn it was to hold the um- 
brella, would slip and slither among the stones, 
thereby bringing its fringe right on the bay mare's 
nose. * 

"Oh ! Head-nurse, have a care ! The blessed child !" 
shrieked poor Foster-mother as a more than usually 
bad stumble sent the umbrella on to the mare's 
tail. 

This was too much for it. Frightened out of its 
senses, it gave a frenzied bound forwards, then rear- 
ing straight up, hung over the edge of the path, as if 
it meant to take a downward \ lunge. 

23 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAB 

All seemed lost ! Foster-father and Faithful stood 
petrified with despair. Meroo would have dashed for- 
ward to catch at the rein but Roy, knowing with that 
curious instinct of his, that that would only make 
matters worse, as it would still further frighten the 
mare, held him back by main force. The only person 
who was not spellbound with fear was Baby Akbar. 
He thought it a fine joke that his mount should stand 
up on its hind legs and paw the air. So he shrieked 
with delight, and dropped the reins to clap his hands, 
as he always did when he was pleased. Now this was 
the very best thing he, or anybody else, could have 
done. The mare, feeling herself free, thought better 
of it, and wheeling round dropped her fore feet on 
the path once more. 

Foster-father's loud Arabic thanksgiving ended in 
an equally loud order. "Get off the mare, woman. 
Horse-chestnut is the only mount thou art fit for. 
Roy! carry that foolish umbrella behind." 

"In front the emblems are ever carried in front," 
protested Head-nurse feebly. 

"I said behind," was all the answer she got, and 
behind it went while they toiled up and up. 

After a while the road became surprisingly bad; 
nothing in fact but a watercourse, and Foster-father 
began to doubt if they could be on the right way. 
Possibly, when they were all excited over the mare's 
bad behaviour, they had taken a wrong turning. But 
24 



THE ROYAL UMBRELLA 

as the path led ever upwards, he judged it better to 
go on, though it was terribly hard work. Every mo- 
ment the road became worse and worse until it ceased 
to be more than a mere ladder of rocks which puzzled 
even Horse-chestnut. More than once he stopped 
dead and would no doubt have refused any further 
attempt to climb had there been anything at which 
to graze. But there was nothing; nothing but rocks. 
So, after a pause he made the best of a bad bargain, 
raised himself on his hind legs, sought a foothold for 
his fore feet in some crevice, and then scrambled up. 
Only the two children enjoyed themselves, Baby Ak- 
bar laughing with delight and clapping his hands over 
all the slips and slitherings which even nimble Horse- 
chestnut made, and which reduced Head-nurse and 
Wet-nurse to piteous wails to Roy not for Heaven's 
sake to let go of the Heir-to-Empire's baggy trous- 
ers. And Adam enjoyed himself, also, running on in 
front and making snowballs in the drifts which, ere 
long, were to be seen sheltering from the sun in the 
clefts of the rocks. 

The sight of them made Foster-father frown. "We 
go too high," he said. "Heaven send we have not to 
climb to a higher pass." 

His remark made Head-nurse give way altogether. 
She wept loudly, saying in that case she had better 
stay and die where she was, thus saving them the 
trouble of carrying her down the hill. 

25 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

At that very moment, however, Adam who had run 
far ahead began waving his arms and shouting: 

"He says 'The top! the top!' " cried Roy, who was 
keen in hearing as in everything else. "Courage, 
mother! our troubles are over!" 

They had not quite ended, but in a few minutes 
more they had reached the beginning of the pass 
proper. Before them lay a grassy boggy slope curl- 
ing gently upwards between higher rockier slopes. A 
little stream plashed softly adown it, through a per- 
fect wilderness of flowers, and without one word the 
tired travellers threw themselves beside it for rest and 
refreshment. 

But Baby Akbar looked a little troubled. 

"Amma, Dadda 'way 'way in a 5 ky," he said 
solemnly, and essayed to crawl on over the grass. For 
he could not walk yet, though he spoke so well. They 
say he began to talk when he was nine months old. 



26 



CHAPTER IV 

TUMBU-DOWN 

AFTER a while the party started on their way once 
more feeling greatly brisked up. But the heat of 
the day was now upon them, and though the snow lay 
close beside the path, the fierce sun melting it made 
the vapour rise and turned the narrow valley into a 
regular steam bath. 

The perspiration ran down the travellers' faces and 
especially down poor Head-nurse's; for she had in- 
sisted on taking off her veil to twist it turbanwise 
round Baby Akbar's head since the Royal Umbrella 
was forbidden. Foster-mother had tried to take off 
hers also, but Head-nurse had angrily forbidden her 
to do any such thing. If she, Head-nurse, died of 
sunstroke what matter, but if Foster-mother failed, 
what even though one back tooth had been glori- 
ously cut would become of the Heir-to-Empire, the 
Admired-of -the- World, the Great-in-Pomp, etc.? 

So, to comfort herself she went on mumbling titles 
as she struggled along, the sun beating fiercely on her 
bare head. Such a quaint head, with sleek black hair 
parted and plaited and hung with jewels, even down 
the long pigtail of brown wool that was added on to 
the back to make the hair look more plentiful. 

It was a piteous sight and Foster-mother was so 

27 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

conscious of the devotion it meant that she said "Lo! 
Head-nurse, thou art a good, good soul though a hard 
one to me ; but I will never, never, never, forget this 
day." 

"Nor I," groaned Head-nurse, "but 'tis for the 
Heir-to-Empire." 

It was a full hour before the slope ended in a level 
bog, on the other side of which began a visible descent. 
Then in the angled hills a blue shadow began to rise, 
telling of a valley below them. 

"Bismillah!" (Thanks be to God) cried Foster- 
father piously. And every one echoed the remark ex- 
cept Baby Akbar. He turned round and looked back 
at the snowy peaks which were beginning to show 
behind them. 

"Amma, Dadda 'way 'way mountains," he said re- 
gretfully and his little mouth went down as for a cry, 
when everybody's attention was distracted by the sud- 
den appearance of a huge furry black dog which came 
bounding down the hill side, its big white teeth gleam- 
ing as it uttered shrill, sharp, growling barks. 

Head-nurse and Foster-mother shrieked with 
fright, little Adam ran like a hare for the shelter of 
his mother's petticoats, and Meroo the cook-boy, re- 
membering his bare legs for like all Indian scullions 
he wore short cotton drawers squatted down where 
he was standing, in order to protect them. Even Roy, 
brave boy that he was, looked uncomfortable, and both 
28 



TUMBU-DOWN 

Foster-father and Old Faithful whipped out their 
swords. 

These were not needed, however, for the next in- 
stant a wild-looking figure clad in a brown blanket 
started up from behind a rock and shouted to the dog. 
It stopped instantly, but stood still snarling, though 
obedient. 

It was the funniest looking dog you can imagine. 
Bigger than a big collie, it was furry all over even to 
its tail. And it was black as ink. In fact with its 
tiny prick ears and small sharp pointed muzzle all 
lost in a huge soft black ruff and nothing to be seen 
but red tongue, white teeth and beady black eyes, it 
was a regular golliwog of a dog. 

When Foster-father saw the man in the brown 
blanket, who from his crook was evidently a shep- 
herd, he heaved a sigh of relief. "Now," he said, "we 
shall be able to find out our way." 

But he was mistaken. The man did not understand 
a word they said, neither could they understand a word 
he said. 

Head-nurse was in despair. "He speaks like a 
ghost of the desert," she wept. "We shall all die of 
starvation before he understands." 

"Die?" echoed Foster-father stoutly. "Not so, 
woman! There is one language all understand." 

Whereupon he placed himself right in front of the 
shepherd, opened his mouth wide and then shook his 

29 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

head. Next he pointed to his stomach and shook his 
head again. Finally he began to chew violently, 
rubbed his stomach and grinned. 

The shepherd grinned too and rubbed Ms stomach, 
whereupon Foster-father turned triumphantly to 
Head-nurse. 

"Said I not sooth, woman," he asked. "Hunger 
hath a tongue of its own, and all men know it." 

Once begun, signs soon brought so much under- 
standing, that, whistling to his dog, the shepherd 
started down the hill at a great pace, beckoning them 
to follow. 

"Not so fast, friend, not so fast!" panted Foster- 
father, "we be not all born on a mountain as thou 
art. And there are women and children, too." He 
pointed to poor Head-nurse and Foster-mother, who 
were indeed dropping with fatigue, and the man 
seemed to understand, for he pulled up. But he had 
to keep some way off because his dog, who kept close 
as a shadow to his master's heels, never ceased growl- 
ing. So they tramped on wearily until just below 
them they saw a marg or mountain upland, where 
some goats were grazing. One part of this dipped 
down into a little valley, and there, in the shelter of 
some huge rocks, they saw two or three small brown 
blanket tents, such as shepherds use on the Beluchis- 
tan hills. They were just like waggon tilts only not 
so large. 
30 



TUMBU-DOWN 

Here, at any rate, was prospect of food and rest, 
and the poor travellers brisked up again. But alas! 
between them and the tents lay a formidable obstacle. 
Nothing less than a birch-twig bridge over a rushing 
stream which filled up the bottom of a wide rift or 
chasm in the upland. This chasm stretched right 
across the upland from a steep rock which blocked up 
the head of the little valley, and out of which the 
stream gushed, and there was no way of crossing it, 
so the shepherd explained by signs, except the birch- 
twig bridge. Now a birch-twig bridge is a very terri- 
fying thing to anybody who is not accustomed to 
them. It is simply a strong flat plait of birch twigs 
about nine inches wide which is flung from one side to 
the other, and which, of course, droops and sags like 
a rope in the middle. Into this plait are stuck every 
few feet or so cross sticks, and to these sticks a rope 
is fastened as a sort of hand rail. Across such a 
bridge as this the hill children walk as easily as an 
English child does over a great brick span ; but Head- 
nurse resolutely refused to set foot over it herself, 
much less to allow the Heir-to-Empire to risk his neck 
on such an appallingly dangerous structure. In vain 
Foster-father, in order to set a good example, allowed 
himself to be led over by the shepherd with his eyes 
carefully bandaged lest he should get giddy in the 
middle by looking down. As a matter of fact, this 
only made Head-nurse more frightened, for, of 

31 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

course, the bridge swung and swayed with the weight 
of the men on it. She would sooner, she declared, 
try to climb Heaven on a rainbow! That was 
at least steady. Roy tried to hearten her up by 
walking over himself with open eyes, though he 
felt frightfully dizzy and had to fling himself 
flat on the grass to recover when he did get over. 
Then Meroo, blubbering loudly that he was 
going to his death for his young master, climbed 
up on the shepherd's back and allowed him- 
self to be carried over just to show how easy it 
was. 

It was all in vain! Head-nurse was firm. They 
must bring the tents to the Heir-to-Empire ; the Heir- 
to-Empire should not go across a tight rope to the 
tents. And there she would have remained had not a 
great, tall burly woman with a fat baby on her hip 
come out of one of the tents, and grasping the po- 
sition, stalked over the bridge without even touching 
the hand rail, caught Baby Akbar from Foster- 
mother, who was too taken aback to resist, set him on 
her other hip and calmly stalked back again, leaving 
the two women too surprised and horrified even to 
scream. 

But when they saw the Heir-to-Empire safe on the 
other side, they consented to be carried across pick-a- 
back. 

So there they were before long eating goats' milk 
32 



TUMBU-DOWN 

cheese fried like a beefsteak and drinking long 
draughts of a sort of sour milk. 

One of the shepherds could speak a little Persian, 
and from him Foster-father, to his great relief, 
learned that Prince Askurry's camp was only a mile or 
two down the valley, so, feeling certain of being able 
to reach it before sundown, he called a halt, and they 
all lay down to rest in one of the tents, Baby Akbar 
between his two nurses for safety sake. For one could 
never tell, Head-nurse remarked, what might happen 
amongst people who spoke the language of ghosts in 
the desert, and kept such strange animals. A great 
golliwog of a black dog who sat on one side of the 
tent like an image, watching them as if he meant to 
eat them, and a great fluff of a white cat sitting on 
the other with her eyes shut as if she did not want 
to watch them. 

No! Indeed it was impossible to tell what might 
not happen! 

And that is exactly how it turned out. What really 
did happen no one knew. It was Foster-mother who, 
waking first, let loose a shriek while still half awake. 
This roused Head-nurse, who let loose another. For 
Baby Akbar was no longer between them. The Heir- 
to-Empire had gone had disappeared was not to 
be found! 

Roy was out of the tent in a second, treading in 
his haste on Meroo, who was sleeping outside, and who 

33 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

began to howl confusedly. Old Faithful fumbled for 
his sword, Foster-father rubbed his eyes as if they 
must be at fault. 

But there was no Baby! And what is more, both 
the black dog and the white cat had disappeared also ; 
at least they were no longer on the watch. 

Never was there such a commotion. The rocks re- 
sounded with cries and every one searched every- 
where ; even in the great tall basket panniers in which 
hill shepherds carry their goods and chattels. 

But not one sign of the little fellow was to be found, 
until horribly, dreadfully, near to that awful birch- 
twig bridge Foster-mother seized on a tiny gold-em- 
broidered skull cap that was lying on the grass. 

"It is his !" she sobbed, "it is my darling's ! He hath 
tried to get to the mountains to his Amma, and he 
hath fallen from that accursed cats' cradle. He is 
dead! He is killed!" 

Every face, except the shepherds', who did not, of 
course, understand what was said, turned pale. It 
was indeed possible, perhaps probable, that the faith- 
ful little soul, who remembered when others forgot, 
had tried 

It was a terrible thought. But the shepherds, see- 
ing the cap, at once whistled to their dog, and the one 
who spoke Persian explained that if it were shown the 
cap it would take up the track of the child at once. 

But though they whistled and whistled no dog came. 
34 



TUMBU-DOWN 

Then the shepherds began to look grave and mutter 
among themselves. 

"What are they saying? What gibberish are they 
talking?" shrilled poor Head-nurse, trying to keep 
hope alive by being angry. The man who spoke Per- 
sian looked at her cheerfully. 

"Only that perhaps the dog has eaten the child. 
We keep it hungry that it may chase the wild ani- 
mals." 

This was too much for the womankind. They 
simply rent the air with heartbroken sobs. 

But Foster-father, grave and silent, would not give 
up hope. Every foot of the ravine must be searched, 
first downwards, as, had the child really fallen into 
the stream it must have been carried with it. Then as 
a last forlorn hope upwards. So, peering down care- 
fully from either side, they traced the ravine till, grad- 
ually becoming shallower, less steep, it merged into 
the grassy valley. But there was no sign. Then sadly 
they commenced their upward search, until they were 
close to the high cliff whence the stream gushed 
out. Here they found that the ravine was wider, 
and at the bottom of it a patch of sand and boulders 
showed that there was foothold beside the roaring 
torrent. 

"I will climb down and see if there is aught," said 
Roy; "it is easier here if he had fallen here, he 
might " the tears in his voice prevented more, as he 

35 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

tucked up his garments preparatory to the difficult 
descent. 

But the shepherds raised an urgent outcry. There 
was a demon in the cavern, they said, whence the 
water came. There was no use angering it, no use in 
losing another life. 

Roy struggled madly in their detaining hands, but 
Old Faithful and Foster-father looked at each other. 
Whether there was a demon or not it was a risk to 
another life and that should not be a young one. 

"No, boy 1" said the old warrior stoutly. "This is my 
task, not thine. I am good swordsman to begin with, 
and demons if there be any like not a clean sword 
thrust. Also I have been pilgrim to Holy Mecca and 
demons if there be any like not pilgrims' flesh." 

So, muttering prayers and holding his drawn sword 
in his teeth, since both hands were needed for the 
parlous descent, he commenced his task while the 
others watched him eagerly. 

About half way down he paused, looked up and 
called back; but they could not hear what he said. 

"Take thy sword out of thy mouth, man," shrieked 
Head-nurse almost beside herself with grief and rage ; 
"it isn't manners to speak with the mouth full." 

True enough, but Old Faithful had some difficulty 
in obeying orders. However, he managed to steady 
himself for a moment on his two feet; so sword in 
hand he bawled back. 
36 



TUMBU-DOWN 

"'Tistrue! There is a demon. It growls. I hear 
it plainly. Farewell! I go on, secure in my sword 
and Holy - 

Here a foot slipped and he went sliding, slithering, 
slipping down to the bottom where, happily only 
bruised, he sat half -stunned staring in front of him. 

And then there echoed up to the listeners the most 
terrible barking, and yelping, and growling, and 
spitting, that ever was heard! 

"The demon! The demon!" yelled the shepherds 
in terror, and ran for their lives. 

But Roy, ear over the cliff, listened for a second, and 
the next had followed Old Faithful. Foster-father 
was not long behind him, and Meroo was close on his 
heels. Foster-mother and Head-nurse were not to be 
left out, and somehow they all managed to get down 
in safety. 

And then they all stood and sat silent and agape 
with surprise and delight. 

For what they saw was this. A low cavern in the 
rock, and on a shelving bank of dry sand Baby Akbar 
sitting up and rubbing his eyes, while on one side of 
him was the golliwog of a black dog, his fur all brist- 
ling, his white teeth gleaming as he filled the air with 
furious barks; while on the other was the white fluff 
of a cat, her back arched, her tail the size of two, spit- 
ting and growling fiercely. 

How had he got there? Foster-father looked at 

37 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Foster-mother, Head-nurse looked at Old Faithful, 
and Roy looked at Meroo, and they all looked at each 
other. 

But Baby Akbar only put out one fat hand towards 
the black dog and said "Tumbu," and the other fat 
hand towards the cat and said "Down," and that was 
all he would say. 

He had tumbled down; but how, when, and where, 
and how the dog and the cat came to be with him no 
one ever knew from that day to this. 



33 



CHAPTER V 

ON THE ROAD 

NATURALLY when, after an uneventful journey 
with the shepherd as guide, they reached Prince 
Askurry's camp that evening, they came to talk over 
the incident. Foster-father was not sparing of Head- 
nurse. The whole tissue of misfortunes, which had 
ended in Baby Akbar so nearly losing his life and 
that he had been spared was simply a miracle arose 
from her insisting on a Royal Procession. But for 
that, both she and the child would have gone com- 
fortably on a camel. They would have kept up with 
the other baggage animals and none of the distressful 
events would have happened. It should not, how- 
ever, happen again. Of course, Head-nurse tried to 
brazen it out and assert that the Heir-to-Empire 
could always count on a miracle in his favour ; but in 
her heart-of -hearts she knew that Foster-father was 
right. 

So next morning she said nothing when she saw a 
camel with two panniers kneeling in front of the tent, 
ready for its load. That had to be endured, but she 
revenged herself by objecting to the black dog and the 
white cat, who sat expectantly one on either side, evi- 
dently prepared for a start. 

"Whose are those uncouth beasts?" she asked of 

39 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Roy angrily. "Did I not tell those ghosts of the des- 
ert who call themselves shepherds to remove them last 
night ? Why have they come back ? Take them away ! 
Catch them ! Tie them up ! Such mean born animals 
have no right to attend the Mighty-in-Pomp, the 
Lord-of -Light," etc., etc. 

She rolled out the titles sonorously, determined that 
if she was docked of dignity in one way she would 
have it in another. 

Now it was not very hard to catch the big black 
golliwog of a dog, even though he did snarl and snap 
and try to bite. There were a lot of camp followers 
who were only too glad to have the amusement of 
capturing him, so, after a very short space poor 
"Tumbu," for Baby Akbar insisted on calling him 
so, was being dragged off at the end of a long rope to 
his masters the shepherds, looking very sad, with his 
tail between his legs. 

But it was quite different with "Down," the cat. 
She had made up her mind to stay where she was, and 
it is very hard, indeed, to make a cat change its mind 
when it is once made up. 

So she moved about gently, from one place to the 
other, purring softly and looking as mild as milk, her 
blue eye for real Persian cats often have their eyes 
of different colours and one of them is always blue 
ever so friendly, as if she were just longing to be 
picked up. Only the very tip of her bushy tail swayed 
40 



ON THE ROAD 

a little, and that is a sure sign that a cat is contrary. 
And contrary Down was. The very instant any one 
tried to pick her up why! she was somewhere 
else! 

Head-nurse ere long joined in the chase, saying all 
the rest didn't understand cats. But she soon lost 
patience and declaring that she had never been done 
by a dumb animal yet, started capture by force. A 
circle was formed round the point where Down sat 
blinking in the sunlight, and shawls and veils were 
held up to make it complete. Then step by step they 
advanced towards the cat, who, in truth, viewed the 
enclosing wall with polite indifference. It was really 
rather a funny sight to see stout Head-nurse without 
her veil tip-toeing in line towards pussy and shrilling 
out her orders to the others to close in and be sure to 
leave no loopholes. Step by step her voice became 
more and more triumphant, and it really seemed as if 
the cat must be caught this time, for Down sat sweetly 
purring until she was actually hidden from sight be- 
hind the high-held screening cloths. 

"Now then! quick!" shrilled Head-nurse. "Close 
in close " 

But her order ended in a scream of fright, for there 
was pussy in one flying leap on her bare head, scrab- 
bling up her scanty hair, and with another away up 
the hillside leaving nothing but claw-marks behind 
her! 

41 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Head-nurse wept with angry tears; but Foster- 
father, always sensible, said "Enough! cry on the 
camel if you will, but now is the time to slip away be- 
fore the obstinate animal can return." 

There was wisdom in this; therefore Head-nurse 
composed herself comfortably in one pannier while 
Foster-mother, who was lighter, settled into the other 
with Baby Akbar. So off they set at the dignified 
lollop which camels affect, and Head-nurse began to 
congratulate herself on having successfully evaded the 
"uncouth beasts." 

But there is no counting on cats. If they are here 
one moment and gone the next, they are also gone one 
moment and here the next. So, as the camel was pass- 
ing under a thorn tree about half a mile out from 
camp, a great fluff of white hair sprang from the 
branches and landed right in Head-nurse's broad lap. 
And there was Mistress Down looking as if butter 
wouldn't melt in her mouth, and purring away like a 
kettle on the boil. 

Head-nurse gave in altogether then. "When a cat 
really makes up its mind," she said with forced wis- 
dom, "it is little use any one else making up theirs!" 

So pussy sat in her lap, and after a while the 
warmth of the pretty creature and even the very 
roughness of the small three-cornered red tongue that 
licked her hand, as half -unconsciously she began to 
stroke the long soft fur, made her say suddenly: 
42 



ON THE ROAD 

" Who knows but it is the Will of the Creator ! This 
mean-born thing may in the future be of use to the 
Light-of-the-World, the Observed-of-all-Observers," 
etc., etc., etc. 

And her words were to come true, for, as you will 
see by and bye, Down was of great use to her little 
master. Nevertheless when, at the very next camping 
ground, a great big black golliwog of a dog with a 
gnawed end of rope still round his neck was seen 
calmly awaiting them at the door of the tent that was 
pitched for their reception, Head-nurse became tear- 
ful again and said that if Providence intended to send 
all the wild beasts of the field to look after Baby Ak- 
bar, there was no need for her; so she would give up 
her place. 

But the little Prince himself was delighted. He 
plumped down on the hot sand beside the dog and 
hugged it, calling it "Dear Tumbu," and when the 
white cat jealously rubbed her back against his little 
fat person he hugged her too and called her "Darling 
Down." 

"Hark to the Lord-of-the-Universe giving his crea- 
tures names!" said Foster-mother piously. So after 
that everybody called the golliwog dog Tumbu, and 
the fluffy cat Down. 

This was the beginning of a whole week on 
camel back; a very pleasant week too, though the 
minds of the elders were rather on the stretch 

43 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

concerning the fate of King Humayon and Queen 
Humeeda. 

Still the sky was as blue as blue could be, the sun 
shone bright and the air was crisp with coming winter. 
Head-nurse spent most of her days dozing and mumb- 
ling long strings of titles in one pannier, while Down 
slept and purred on her lap. In the other pannier 
were Foster-mother and Baby Akbar. The little fel- 
low did not sleep much, but spent most of his time 
craning over the pannier side to see everything there 
was to be seen. But what amused him most was to 
watch Tumbu, who would look up and bark and gam- 
bol for hours to attract his little master's attention. 
Whereat Down would become impatient and come 
over the camel's hump from the other pannier, rub 
her back against the little Prince and watch, too, with 
a sort of dignified contempt. It was the way of dogs 
to be loud and effusive, and gushing; but it didn't 
mean much. Tumbu, for instance, despite his display 
of affection, would leave his post to run after every 
wild thing he saw; and though he always came back 
to it, he was so helplessly breathless, with half a yard 
of red tongue hanging out, that he would have been 
little use had an enemy turned up and his protection 
been needed. 

Cats were far wiser. They sat still and watched ; so 
they were always ready. 

And one evening Down watched to some purpose. 
44 



ON THE ROAD 

Baby Akbar was asleep on some quilts and Down, as 
usual, lay keeping his feet warm, her eyes closed, purr- 
ing away like a steaming kettle. 

You would have sworn she was half asleep, but in 
a second there was one spring, something reared itself 
at her to strike, but her paws were too quick. One, 
two, three, came the blows swiftly like boxes on the 
ears, and there was a snake squirming and helpless in 
the dust. Old Faithful's armoured feet were on its 
head in a second and the danger was over. 

"Truly a cat is a terrible thing," said Head-nurse 
in a twitter. "There is no fear in them. The reptile 
had not a chance." 

But Down was back on her young master's feet, 
her eyes closed, purring away as if nothing had hap- 
pened. 

Tumbu was in favour, however, next evening, but 
for a different cause. He appeared with a great prickly 
porcupine held gingerly in his mouth and laid it be- 
fore Baby Akbar. 

"Ohi! Porcupine for supper!" cried Meroo, the 
cook boy, who knew what a delicacy it was ; but Head- 
nurse shrieked, "Take it away quick the Heir-to- 
Empire will prick himself with the quills and they are 
poisonous. Take it away at once, I say." 

But alas ! The Heir-to-Empire was wilful, like all 
Eastern Princelings, and he shrieked to match at the 
suggestion. So there arose such a hubbub, which was 

45 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

only calmed by Baby Akbar being allowed to do as he 
chose. 

"Poor! Poor!" he said as his little hand touched 
the sharp prickles and no one found out, till Foster- 
mother came to put him to bed, that he really did 
scratch himself. There was quite a little runnel of 
blood on the palm; but Akbar, even when he was a 
baby, was proud. He knew how to bear discomfort 
and punishment when it was his own fault. 

They were all rather merry that night, for they had 
roast porcupine stuffed with pistachio nuts for sup- 
per. And afterward Roy sat by Baby Akbar's pile 
of quilts and sang him to sleep with this royal*lullaby : 

"Baby, Baby-ling, 
You are always King; 
Always wear a crown, 
Though you tumble down; 
Call each thing your own, 
Find each lap a throne; 
Dearest, sweetest King, 
Baby! Baby-ling!" 

When the child had fallen asleep Roy sat at the 
door of the tent and looked at the stars, which shone, 
as they do in the East, all colours, like jewels in the 
velvety sky. They seemed so far away, but not far- 
ther than he seemed to be from himself. For Roy's 
head had been dreadfully confused by that sunstroke 
46 



ON THE ROAD 

in the desert. Only that morning something had 
seemed to come back to him in a flash, and he had so 
far f ogotten he was only a page boy as to call the little 
Heir-to-Empire "Brother," but Head-nurse's cuff 
had brought him back to reality in double quick time. 
And as he sat there in the dark he saw a man creeping 
stealthily to the tent. He was on his feet in a moment 
challenging him. 

"Hush!" whispered the newcomer, "I bring a mes- 
sage from King Humayon. I must see Foster-father 
at once." 

The good man was already between the quilts, but 
he got up quickly, and when he had heard the message 
he sent for Head-nurse and Foster-mother and Old 
Faithful, for he felt that a most momentous decision 
had to be made. Yet the message was a very simple 
one. Those in charge of the child were to creep away 
that very night with the messenger, who would guide 
them in safety to King Humayon, who had found help 
and shelter in Persia. 

Head-nurse and Foster-mother wept tears of joy 
at the glad news, and proposed at once that they 
should wrap the child in a blanket and start. But 
Foster-father was more wary. 

"You come as a thief in the darkness," he said. 
"Where is your token from the king, that I may know 
who you are?" 

But there was no token. 

47 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

"Then the child stays where he is," asserted Foster- 
father boldly. "Am I not right oh! Faithful?" 

"Assuredly my lord is right. Who knows but this 
man may be an emissary of those who would wile 
away the little lad from his uncle, Prince Askurry's 
protection. His other uncle, Kumran, is not so 
kind." 

The messenger scowled at the old man. "As you 
please," he began blusteringly, "but those who disobey 
the King's order may find their lives forfeit." 

"Mine is forfeit already to the child's service," re- 
plied Foster-father with spirit. "And without a token 
I stir not Peace ! woman," he added to Head-nurse, 
who would fain have sided with the messenger, "and 
go fetch the Heir-to-Empire's cap. That shall 
go as sign that he is his father's vassal, to do what 
he is told when the order comes accredited. So take 
that as my answer to those who sent you, sir mes- 
senger!" 

So despite Head-nurse's protestations the man went 
off with nothing but the little gold-laced skull cap. 
And he had not to go far ; only into a tent on the out- 
skirts of the camp. For Foster-father's suspicions 
had been correct, and he had been sent to try and en- 
tice the child by some of Prince Kumran's partisans' 
who, booted and spurred, and with a swift pacing 
camel for the child, were waiting eagerly for the re- 
turn of their messenger. 
48 



ON THE ROAD 

Their faces fell as he flung the little cap upon the 
ground. 

"The old fox is too wary," he said. "We must get 
at the child some other way." 

One of the party took up the cap and fingered it, 
half idly. "He has a large-sized head for his years," 
he remarked; "if it be full of brains, hereafter he may 
do well." 






49 

D 



CHAPTER VI 

AT COURT 

OF course, the messenger never returned from King 
Humayon with the token; but Foster-father was a 
good-natured man and did not boast of his wisdom to 
Head-nurse, who, however, remained wonderfully 
meek and silent until at the end of a fortnight's march- 
ing they saw, against the blue of the distant valley, 
the white domes of the town of Kandahar with the 
citadel rising above them. Then, with the chance of a 
courif before her once more, she began chattering of 
ceremonials and titles and etiquettes. 

"Praise be!" she shrilled in her high voice. "No 
more jiggettings and joggettings on camel back. I 
shall be on my own feet once more, and it shall not be 
my fault if His just dues are not given to the Great- 
in-Pomp " etc., etc. 

Foster-mother interrupted the string of titles. "So 
that they harm not the child," she said, clasping her 
charge tight. She was always thinking of his safety, 
always alarmed for danger; but he, young Turk that 
he was, struggled from her arms and pointed to the 
hills they were leaving behind them. 

"Dadda, Amma 'way 'way mountains," he repeated 
once more; then added cheerfully, "Akka 'way, too." 

"It is a prophecy 1" said Old Faithful, overhearing 
50 



AT COURT 

the remark. "Sure his grandad Baber on whom be 
peace had the gift, and this babe may have inherited 
it." 

"May have," echoed Head-nurse indignantly. "He 
has inherited it, and has much of his own besides. 
Mark my words! if this child live which Heaven 
grant he will be the King of Kings ! Not two sum- 
mers old and he talks as one of three." 

"Aye!" assented Foster-mother, "but he does not 
walk yet." 

Head-nurse sniffed. "Thou are a foolish soul, 
woman ! Sure either the feet or the tongue must come 
first, and for my part I prefer the tongue. Any babe 
can walk!" 

And Foster-mother was silent ; it was true one could 
not have everything. 

Their last camp was pitched just outside the city 
of Kandahar, so that Prince Askurry could make a 
regular triumphal entry the next morning and let 
everybody see with their own eyes that he had come 
back victorious, holding Baby Akbar as prisoner and 
hostage. 

But this did not suit Head-nurse at all. She had 
no notion that her Heir-to-Empire should be stared 
at as a captive; so, though she started from camp 
humbly as ever on the baggage camel, no sooner had 
they passed through the arched gate of the city with 
Prince Askurry well ahead of them in the narrow 

51 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

streets, than out she whipped the Royal Umbrella 
which she had patched up with an old scarlet silk petti- 
coat, and there was Baby Akbar under its shadow; 
and, having young as he was been taught to salute 
to a crowd, he began waving his little fat hand with 
much dignity, until the people who had come out to 
gape whispered among themselves and said: 

"He looks every inch a king's son." 

"And that is what he is," said a bold voice in the 
crowd ; but though folk turned to see who spoke, there 
was no sign of the speaker. For loyal men had to 
hide their loyalty in those days. Still the populace 
were pleased with the little Prince's bearing, and 
many a hand was raised to welcome him. 

Before they reached the frowning palace, indeed, 
where Prince Askurry kept a right royal court as 
Governor of Kandahar, Head-nurse's mind was full 
of the things she intended to insist upon for the honour 
and dignity of her small charge. Meanwhile she had 
to obey the order to take him at once into Princess 
Sultanam's apartments. Now Princess Sultanam was 
Prince Askurry's wife, and she had a boy of her own 
who was about three years older than Baby Akbar, 
and a little daughter who had just been born about a 
month before. So, as she lay among cushions at the 
farther end of the long room, with Prince Askurry, 
who had hurried to see his wife on his return, beside 
her, she looked suspiciously at the child which Head- 
52 



AT COURT 

nurse put down on the Persian carpet as soon as she 
came into the room; since though others might carry 
him to the upstarts at the farther end, she was not 
going to do so, when they were clearly bound to come 
humbly to the Heir-to-Empire and prostrate them- 
selves before him! 

So there stood Baby Akbar, fair and square, steady- 
ing himself by Head-nurse's petticoats, but for all 
that looking bold and big and brave. 

Now Princess Sultanam was a kindly foolish 
woman at heart, much given to impulses, and the sight 
of the upstanding little boy made her think instantly 
what a fine man he would make, and that brought 
another thought which made her sit up delightedly 
and clap her hands. 

"I have it, my lord!" she exclaimed, turning to 
Prince Askurry. "It is a grand idea! We will be- 
troth our little Amina to this young master. That 
will settle everything and they will be the hand- 
somest couple in the country!" 

Now, strange as this may sound to my readers, 
Prince Askurry, who was accustomed to the Indian 
habit of settling that quite little boys and girls should 
marry each other when they grew up, could not help 
at once seeing that his wife's suggestion was not such 
a bad one. It would help him to keep a hold over the 
little Heir-to-Empire. If King Humayon returned 
it would make him more inclined to forgive, and if 

53 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

he did not, why ! it would prevent cruel brother Kum- 
ran from stepping in and getting all, since as father- 
in-law to the young king he, Askurry, would be 
Regent. 

Still, taken aback, he hummed and hawed. 

"It would be a long time to wait until they are old 
enough to marry," he began. 

"Long!" interrupted the lively Princess gaily. "All 
the longer for merriment and festivities. Thy daugh- 
ter, my lord, is already beautiful, and I'll wager the 
boy will be a grown man ere we have time to turn 
round. So that is settled. Therefore come hither, oh 
nephew! Jallaluddin Mahomed Akbar, since that is 
thy long name, and kiss thy cousin Amina Nurse! 
bring my sweeting hither. Now then, woman," she 
continued sharply, addressing Head-nurse, who stood 
petrified with astonishment and anger at the very idea 
of such scant ceremony. "If the boy cannot walk, 
carry him!" 

Head-nurse could scarcely speak. To be called 
"Woman" by an upstart for Prince Askurry had 
married Princess Sultanam for her beauty was too 
much! 

"The Feet-of-the-Most-Condescending-of-Majes- 
ties," she began pompously, "have not yet conferred 
happiness on the earth by treading it underfoot, 
neither " 

Here she broke off hurriedly, for at that very 
54 



AT COURT 

instant, as if in denial of her words, Baby Akbar 
gave a little crow of assent, let go her petticoats, 
and with outspread balancing arms, and legs very 
wide apart, launched himself boldly for his very first 
steps ! 

"Bismillah!" (Well done!) shrieked Foster-mother 
in delight. 

"Bismillah! Bismilldh!" echoed every one in the 
room, while all eyes full of smiles were on the stalwart 
young toddler as he lurched forward, his face one 
broad grin. 

Princess Sultanam clapped her hands again. "Thy 
turban, my lord!" she cried in a flutter of amusement. 
"Thy turban, quick; as his father is not here 'tis thy 
place to prevent him falling of himself thy turban 
quick! quick!" 

Prince Askurry, full of laughter, pulled off the 
soft turban he wore it was all wound round and 
round to fit the head like a cap and in obedience to 
the Indian custom, which always prevents a child from 
falling of itself in its first attempt at walking, flung 
it full at the little lad. It caught him between his 
outspread balancing arms and over he went on to the 
thick pile carpet. 

Foster-mother was beside him in a second, eager to 
snatch him up and cover him with kisses; but Baby 
Akbar wriggled himself from her hold. He had set 
himself a task and he meant to do it. 

55 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

"Go way!" he said with determination. "Tumbu 
down. Get up again." 

So, calmly reaching round for the turban which lay 
beside him, which he evidently thought had tumbled 
down too, he clapped it on his head with both hands, 
rose to his feet and recommenced his forward lurch; 
a yard or two of the fringed turban, which had become 
unrolled, trailing behind him like a royal robe. 

It was a quainter little figure than before, but no- 
body laughed now. They looked at each other, then 
at the child staggering along under the Prince's 
plumed turban, then at Prince Askurry himself stand- 
ing bareheaded before his nephew. 

It was an ill omen. And yet as Head-nurse said 
proudly when they got back to the rooms that had 
been given them in a frowning bastion of the palace, 
Baby Akbar had once more scored off his uncle. 

Indeed, she was so cock-a-hoop about it that she 
stickled for this, and she stickled for that until the 
attendants, who were at first inclined to be civil, began 
to look askance, and Foster-father had to bid her hold 
her tongue. 

"Wise folk leave steel traps alone," he said; "fid- 
dling with them lets off the spring. Then pouf !" 

He shook his head significantly. 

"Steel traps?" echoed Head-nurse sniffily, "who is 
talking of steel traps?" 

"I am, woman!" replied Foster-father sternly. "I 
56 



AT COURT 

tell you this Kandahar is as a steel trap ready to snap 
on us at any moment." 

Head-nurse was silent, even though he also had 
ventured to call her "woman"; but she was beginning 
to learn that nine times out of ten Foster-father was 
right. 



57 



CHAPTER VII 

WINTER 

THE winter settled in early that year, and with the 
passes of the hills blocked by snow, the caravans of 
laden camels which, in addition to merchandise of all 
sorts, brought news from the world to the east and 
the world to the west of mountain-clipped Kandahar, 
ceased to come into the big bazaar. And the cold 
kept most people at home, or shivering beside the 
glowing braziers set outside the shops. It was not the 
season for active work, and so Prince Askurry let it 
slip by without really making up his mind what he 
was to do with Baby Akbar. Meanwhile the child 
could live in the bastion of the palace, and play with 
his little cousins. Whether he was to be betrothed to 
Baby Amina or not could be decided in the spring; 
this was the time for rest and home comfort without 
fear of any disturbing, since none could cross the 
passes in winter. 

Princess Sultanam, however, to whom in her seclu- 
sion winter and summer were much alike, grew fond 
of the little lad, and never ceased to urge on her hus- 
band the wisdom of so treating Prince Akbar, that 
should King Humayon by good luck and he had a 
knack of being lucky find himself again with an 
army at his back, his hands would be tied from revenge 
on the Court at Kabul. 
58 



WINTER 

Now, Askurry was no fool; he saw that, for the 
present at any rate, until Humayon's fate was decided, 
it would be wiser to be kind ; so he decided that when he 
held the New Year's assemblage he would present the 
little prince in due form to the chiefs and nobles. 

Head-nurse was almost crazy with delight at the 
very idea. She and Foster-mother sent all their jewels 
to the goldsmith to be made up into suitable orna- 
ments for Baby Akbar, and they ransacked the shops 
for odd scraps of brocade with which to make him the 
finest of fine state robes. 

And on the eventful day they began the child's 
toilette early, pressing Roy the Rajput into service 
as tire- woman to hold the ointments, and scents, and 
what not, that they deemed necessary for the due 
dressing of a Prince. 

So that it rather dashed their spirits when Foster- 
father came in with a sober face and the news that a 
man had come into the bazaar bringing bad tidings 
of the King and Queen. They had, he said, been lost 
in the snow; but whether this was true or not, who 
could tell? 

"Then what is the use of worrying?" snapped 
Head-nurse, who was too much occupied in making 
her charge beautiful to think of other things. "Lo! 
Foster-father, evil is never lost on the road. It arrives 
sooner or later, so why watch for it at the door?" 

"That is true," replied Foster-father, "but mark 

59 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

my words, all depends on good news. If that comes, 
the child is safe; if evil then God help him!" 

Roy, who, Baby Akbar being nearly dressed, was 
now holding the pot of lamp-black and oil with which 
Head-nurse, after the Indian custom, would put a 
finishing touch to her work by smearing a big black 
smut on the child's forehead, lest he should be too 
sweet and so attract an envious, evil eye, looked up 
at the words, his face full of light and remembrance. 

"God does help true kingship," he said proudly. 
"Mother used to say so, and that is why she was never 
afraid " He paused and the light in his face faded. 
"I I don't remember any more," he added apolo- 
getically. 

"Remembrance or no," snapped Head-nurse, "hold 
the pot straight, boy, or thou wilt spill it over the 
Mighty-in-Pomp, the Admired-of-the-World," etc. 

But Foster-father looked at Old Faithful and laid 
his hand kindly on Roy's shoulder. "It matters not, 
Roy ! It is there within thee, all the same. And 'twill 
come back some day, never fear. And I for one," 
he added aside to the old trooper, "should not wonder 
at much ; for the lad's manners are ever above his pres- 
ent station." 

Old Faithful shook his head wisely. " 'Tis not the 
boy's manners, friend," he said, "but his breed. A 
man may compass manners for himself, but not that 
his father should have had them also." 
60 



WINTER 

By this time the black smear was on Baby Akbar's 
forehead, and despite the smudge, he looked a very 
fine little fellow indeed. So much so that quite a 
murmur of delighted admiration ran round the assem- 
blage when Askurry appeared, leading him by the 
hand; for he had quickly learned to run about and 
was now quite steady on his legs. 

"A chip of the old block," said an ancient mountain 
chief, who had known his grandfather Babar, and 
many others nodded assent. Then Prince Askurry 
began a set speech, little Akbar seated on his knee the 
while. 

It was a very clever, crafty speech, that could be 
taken two ways, and Prince Askurry was so much 
interested in it, and making sure that he was neither 
too disloyal or too loyal to his unfortunate brother, 
the King, that he did not notice what was passing on 
his knee until a sudden lack of attention on the part 
of his audience made him follow their eyes, and look 
down at the child upon his lap. 

And then? 

Then he sat dumbfounded, his face flushing to a 
dull, dark red, for he saw in a moment what the thing 
that had happened would mean to those others the 
audience before him the men he had summoned to 
listen to his half-hearted words. 

Yet it was a very simple little thing. Baby Akbar, 
tired, doubtless, of his uncle's speechifying, had found 

61 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

amusement in a slender gold chain which hung round 
his uncle's neck ; had traced it to a secret pocket in his 
inner waistcoat, and so had drawn out from its hiding 
place a golden signet ring, set with an engraved 
emerald. A toy indeed! So after playing with it for 
a bit the child had slipped it onto his little forefinger, 
which he held up the better to admire his new-found 
treasure. So it came to pass that as Askurry's smooth, 
oily voice went on and on, those who listened could 
see a little image sitting on his knee. 

A dignified, gracious-looking image with forefinger 
held up in the attitude of kingly command; and on 
that forefinger what? 

The Signet of the King! 

The Ring of Empire! 

It was unmistakable ! Askurry must have found it 
in his fugitive brother's tent. He must have con- 
cealed it. Uncertain what part he meant to play in 
the end, he must have worn it on his person until the 
child the true Heir-to-Empire 

The chiefs looked at each other furtively. There 
was a pause. Then suddenly an old, thin voice the 
voice of the old mountain chief, who remembered 
Babar the brave rose on the silence. 

"God save the Heir-to-Empire!" 

It gave the lead, and from every side rose the cry : 

"God save the Heir-to-Empire!" 

Prince Askurry's face fell. He had not meant to 
62 



WINTER 

rouse loyalty, but he was quick and clever, so he saw 
that it had been roused, and that now was not the time 
to try and stifle it. So his frown turned to a smile as 
he caught the child to him and rose, holding him in 
his arms. 

"The rogue, my lords," he said lightly, "has fore- 
stalled me. I meant to place the ring upon his finger 
myself before you all, in token that he does in truth 
represent our King, but praise be to Heaven! he has 
saved me the task. Long live the Heir-to-Empire !" 

But the nobles as they passed out of the assembly, 
and the people who heard the tale outside, said it was 
a strange happening that the innocent child should 
so claim his right. And cruel brother Kumran's party 
laid their heads together once more, and swore it was 
time to end Prince Askurry's foolish hesitation. They 
must get at the child somehow. 

But by this time, if Prince Askurry had not quite 
made up his mind how he should treat Baby Akbar, 
he had quite settled that no one else least of all cruel 
brother Kumran should have anything to do with 
the child. So the little prince was carefully watched 
and guarded, rather to Foster-father's and Old Faith- 
ful's relief. Indeed, as time went on they almost for- 
got to watch themselves, being accustomed to see the 
sentry walking up and down before the entry to the 
narrow stairs that led up to the three rooms in the old 
bastion which were given them as lodgings. They 

63 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

were large, comfortable rooms, and the inner one was 
used by Foster-mother, Head-nurse and Baby Akbar, 
the outer one by the two men and the two boys, while 
the middle one, a great wide hall of a place, they used 
as a living room. It was lighter than the others, since 
it had slits of windows without glass, of course 
high up in the walls, and though these let the cold as 
well as the winter sunshine into the room, there was a 
roaring great fireplace, which kept the farther end 
of the hall nice and warm. And here on very frosty 
nights the women folk would drag their beds and 
sleep, while during the snowy days they would spread 
quilts on the floor, and Baby Akbar would have high 
jinks with Tumbu and Down, who were his constant 
playmates. Then, when he was tired, Roy would 
cradle his young master in his arms and sing to him. 
Not lullabies, for little Akbar's mind kept pace with 
his body, and every month saw him more and more of 
a boy and less and less of a baby. 

"Tell me how Rajah Rasalu did this," or "Tell me 
how Rajah Rasalu did that," he would say; and so 
Roy's boyish voice would go over the old story of end- 
less adventures, which has delighted so many Indian 
children for so many generations. 

So time passed quite merrily until one night, when 
something dreadful happened. So dreadful that it 
will really require another chapter to describe it. But 
it was one night when Roy had been telling the little 
64 



WINTER 

prince how "Rajah Rasalu's friends forsook him for 
fear." And as this is rather a nice story, it shall be 
told here. 

" You know, great Kingly child," began Roy, "how 
Rajah Rasalu was born and how Rajah Rasalu set 
out into the world to seek for fortune, taking with him 
his dear horse, Baunwa-iraki, his parrot, Kilkila, who 
had lived with him since he was born, besides the Car- 
penter-lad and the Goldsmith-lad, who had sworn 
never to leave their young master. So he journeyed 
north to a lonely place, all set with sombre trees. And 
the night was dark, so he set a watch, and the gold- 
smith took the first, while the young prince slept by 
the Carpenter-lad, on a couch of clean, sweet leaves. 
And lest the heart of the prince should sink, they sang 
a cheering song: 

" 'Cradled till now on softest down, 
Leaves are thy bed to-night; 
Yet grieve not thou at fortune's frown, 
Brave men heed not her slight/ 

"And while they slept and the goldsmith watched, 
a snake slid out from the trees. 'Now, who are you?' 
quoth the Goldsmith-lad, 'who come to disturb his 
rest?' 'Lo! I have killed all living things that have 
ventured within ten miles of this my place of rest,' it 
hissed, 'and now I will slay you, too!' So they fought 
and fought, but the Goldsmith lad he killed the snake 

65 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

in the end. Then he hid the body under his shield, lest 
the others might be afraid, and he roused from his rest 
the Carpenter-lad, to take his share of the watch, while 
he, in his turn, on the clean, sweet leaves lay down 
beside the prince. And while they slept, and the Car- 
penter watched, a dragon slid from the trees. 'Now, 
who are you?' quoth the Carpenter-lad, 'who come to 
disturb his rest?' 'Lo! I have killed all living things 
for twenty miles round this place; and I'll kill you, 
too,' it roared, 'and crack your bones to eat.' So they 
fought and fought and fought till he killed the dragon 
at last. Then he hid the body behind a bush lest the 
others should be afraid, and roused Rasalu from out 
his sleep to take his share of the watch; while he in 
turn by the Goldsmith-lad lay down to take his rest. 

"And while they slept and Rasalu waked a 
THING slid out from the trees; an awful THING! 
No man could tell th' unspeakable horror of it. But 
Rasalu smiled in its face of dread, and laughed in. its 
horrible eyes. 'Pray, who are you to disturb our rest, 
and why do you dare to come?' 'Lo! I have killed all 
living things for twenty times twenty miles, and I will 
kill you, upstart boy, and crack your bones to dust.' 

"So they fought and fought and fought, and Rasalu 
drew his bow, and the arrow fled like the wind and 
pierced the Awful Horror through. Then it fled 
to a cave close by, with Rasalu at its heels. So they 
fought and fought and fought till the dawn showed 
66 



WINTER 

clear in the sky, and the Awful Horror gave up with 
a groan and rolled on its side and died. Now, just 
as Rasalu wiped his sword the sleepers awoke from 
their sleep. 'See here!' said the Goldsmith-lad with 
pride, 'what I killed in my lonely watch.' 'Pooh! only 
a snake!' said the Carpenter-lad; 'see the dragon I 
have killed.' But Rasalu took them hoth by the liand 
and led them into the cave; but dead as it was, they 
shrieked with fear at the Awful Horror they saw. 
And they fell at Rasalu's feet and groaned and 
moaned and prayed and wept. 'Let us go ! Oh, hero, 
we are but men. We dare not follow you now. It 
is nothing to you; it is death to us to follow and be 
your friends.' 

"Then tears came into Rasalu's eyes, but he said no 
word of nay. 'Do as you will,' he said to them. f l 
will not bid you stay. 

" 'Aloes linger long before they flower, 
Gracious rain too soon is overpast ; 
Youth and strength are with us but an hour, 
All glad life must end in death at last. 
But king reigns king without consent of courtier, 
Rulers may rule, though none heed their command; 
Heaven-crowned heads, stoop not, but rise the haughtier, 
Alone and friendless in a strangers' land.' 

"So his friends forsook him and fled. But Rasalu 
went on his way." 

67 



CHAPTER VIII 

DOWN'S STRATAGEM 

Now the terrible thing that happened was one 
which Foster-father might have expected, but for two 
things. 

One was the sentry who walked up and down all 
night long below the high second-story windows of 
the central room. He would be bound to see any 
attempt to gain an entrance through them, even if 
they were wide enough to admit the entry of a grown 
man, which they were not. 

The other was the fact that he, Old Faithful, Meroo 
and Roy all slept in the outer room, into which the 
only door opened, so that any intruder would have 
to force an entrance over their bodies ; for they slept 
with drawn swords beside them. 

So as the days passed on Foster-father's vigilance 
though he knew that cruel brother Kumran's agents 
were on the lookout for any opportunity of kidnap- 
ping the Heir-to-Empire slackened somewhat, espe- 
cially when the afternoons drew in, the fire in the big 
hall was made up, the quilts put down and Baby 
Akbar, surrounded by his admiring circle, listened to 
Roy's stories or tumbled about with his playmates, 
Tumbu, the dog, and Down, the cat. 

One day, however, Down did not appear until little 
68 



DOWN'S STRATAGEM 

Akbar was having his supper, and then she came in 
a great hurry out of a small archway by the big fire- 
place, which led to a sort of cupboard in the masonry, 
where charcoal had been kept, gobbled up a plate of 
bread and milk, and hurried in again as if she had 
to catch a train. 

"She has had kittens," said Foster-mother; "I won- 
der if they are white or black." 

"Black!" sniffed Head-nurse. "What else could 
they be in that hole? Have a care, woman! or the 
Heir-to-Empire will be blacking himself, too. The 
archway is large enough for him to creep in, and 
Heaven only knows whither it might lead." 

"That is true," replied Foster-mother, alarmed, as 
she distracted the child's attention. 

But in a day or two his quick ear caught the sound 
of a feeble mewing inside the arch, and, of course, he 
wanted to know what it was. So he was told that 
kittens had to be kept quiet and that Down would 
be very vexed if her kitten was disturbed; but that 
by-and-bye she would doubtless bring it out for him 
to see, and then, of course, he could play with it. Now, 
Baby Akbar was always a reasonable little fellow, so 
he waited patiently; though every night when he went 
to bed and Down came out for her supper, his little 
mouth would go down and he would hold up his little 
hands and twiddle them round and say mournfully: 

"Kitty not 'weady. Kitty not 'weady." 

69 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Now, one night there was a great festival in the 
palace, and the Heir-to-Empire had to go and pay 
his respects, after the Indian manner on feast days, to 
his aunt and uncle. Then, when he returned, they sent 
him, after Indian wont, trays full of fruit and sugar- 
toffee made in the shape of animals, and a few pieces 
of muslin and stuffs to make new dresses for the 
party. In addition to this there was a trayful of 
supper, which came afterward, when daylight had 
gone, with the Princess Sultanum's best compliments. 
At least so said the man who brought it ; but he did 
not wait to be questioned, and disappeared so soon as 
Meroo had taken the tray from him. 

But it was full of the most delicious dainties, in- 
cluding a bowl of sweet milk made with almonds and 
honey and rice meal for Baby Akbar. 

Head-nurse, however, would not let him eat it. She 
was always afraid of the little lad being poisoned, so 
Meroo always cooked with his own hands everything 
the child ate. Therefore they gave it to Tumbu in- 
stead; for, having been brought up by shepherds, he 
loved milk, and he licked his lips after it and was soon 
sound asleep by the fire. 

The lamb stewed with pistachio nuts and full of 
saffron looked, however, so delicious that after Meroo 
had tasted it and pronounced it quite safe, since all 
knew that saffron would not go with real poison, they 
set to work and finished the platter. 
70 



DOWN'S STRATAGEM 

They were all as jolly as could be afterward, though 
the heat of the fire and their heavy supper made them 
sleepy; so Head-nurse, declaring it was far too cold 
in the inner room, dragged her bed and Foster- 
mother's close to the fire, the others retired to the outer 
room, and before long they were all snoring away 
quite happily. 

For if the supper had not truly been poisoned, it had 
been drugged. Drugged with sleep-bringing drugs. 

So, as the firelight flickered over the room faintly, 
it showed Head-nurse's face and Foster-mother's face 
and even Tumbu's black muzzle in a dead sleep that 
was almost unconsciousness. And in the outer room 
Foster-father snored, and even Roy's keen, hawk-face 
lay like one dead. Only Baby Akbar tossed and 
turned in his comfortable nest between his two 
nurses. 

Save for this, due to Head-nurse's precaution in not 
allowing the Heir-to-Empire sweet milk for supper, 
all was as cruel brother Kumran's agents had planned 
when they had sent the pretended messenger from 
the palace with the platter of delicacies. Even the 
sentry below was sleeping sound after his share of 
kid curry. 

Thus, those who were on the roof waiting until the 
moon had set and they could without fear of discovery 
lower the young lad, who was to steal Baby Akbar, 
down to the window (through which, being slender, 

71 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

the thief could slip easily), felt that their task was 
almost done. 

But they reckoned without a great white fluff which 
after a time showed itself at the entry to the charcoal 
bunker, yawning and stretching and blinking its eyes. 
Head-nurse had been quite wrong in saying Down's 
kitten must be black in that hole! Its mother, any- 
how, was beautifully white, perhaps because Down 
was a sensible cat and had only chosen the charcoal 
bunker because she had found a lot of old straw and 
a blanket tucked away in its farther corner. Besides, 
as she only had one kitten, she could spend all her 
time in licking it and cleaning it with her rough, red 
tongue, after the manner of cats. Anyhow, there it 
lay, right out of reach of any one, a little bundle of 
white fluff, and Down was just beginning to feel that 
there were other things in the world besides kittens. 
For instance, was that scratching on the roof, think 
you, a mouse? If so ? She passed to the fire. It was 
warm and nice; just the very place for a kitten's first 
look at the world, and there were no troublesome 
people about; not but what she was anxious to show 
her kitten to Baby Akbar. But who knew if horrid 
Head-nurse might not try to catch it? But Head- 
nurse was asleep. Down whisked her tail, disappeared 
through the archway, and reappeared again gingerly, 
carrying the kitten in her mouth. It sprawled in the 
firelight and mewed piteously. And there was that 
72 



DOWN'S STRATAGEM 

scratching on the roof again . . . really, kittens were 
a bore when one wanted to mouse. . . . 

So far it is easy to follow Down's thoughts. What 
came next is more difficult. No one can say whether 
the cat had really any notion that danger to her young 
master was abroad, or whether she only wanted to 
show him her kitten, or whether she wanted it taken 
care of for Persian cats, if they kill a rat at night, 
have often been known to jump on their master's bed 
and insist on his taking custody of their prize lest it 
should somehow come to life again if they left it 
alone only this was certain, Baby Akbar woke 
with a rough, red tongue licking his nose, and there, 
on the quilt, was Down beside the fluffiest, darlingest 
little kitten that ever was ! 

He made a grab at it with his little fat hands. 
Whether this frightened its anxious mother or whether 
Down really had a purpose in view, who can say? 
Only this is sure : she was off the bed in a second, Miss 
Kitten in her mouth. A minute afterward Baby 
Akbar was off it also with a little crow of delight. But 
the drugged nurses did not stir ; they were away in the 
Land of Dreams. And hark! what was that curious 
noise outside the window, as if something was slipping 
down the wall? Perhaps it was that that frightened 
Down once more; for just as Baby Akbar's hand 
reached out to lay hold of the kitten, which she had 
set down by the fire, Down snatched it up again and 

73 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

was off with it back to the charcoal bunker, with Baby 
Akbar after her, his face full of solemn resolve. He 
meant to play with that kitty. 

And play with her he did. At least, after he disap- 
peared down the archway by the fireplace he did not 
come out again. Only Down reappeared and seated 
herself at the entrance, her ears cocked, her eyes fixed 
on the window. 

For something very funny had happened there, 
which, though the flicker of the fire had died down, 
she could see with her cat's eyes. 

A lad had slipped in, carrying the end of a rope, 
to which was attached a network bag. And now, since 
it was dark, he was striking a light. A feeble little 
glimmer, but sufficient to show the two sleeping nurses 
and the comfy little nest of quilts between them. But 
it was empty! 

The boy seemed puzzled, and went into the inner 
room, only to return without what he sought. Then 
he stole into the outer room, but came back softly 
with a puzzled look on his face. Then he began to 
peer about him on the floor, and in the corners, hold- 
ing the feeble light in front of him. Whereupon 
Down, apparently to satisfy herself that her kitten 
really was safe in the corner of the charcoal bunker 
where she had left it, retreated for a moment, so that 
as the searcher came round he saw nothing but the 
low, round arch. The next he gave a stifled yell, for 
74 



DOWN'S STRATAGEM 

something white that was all claws leaped right in 
his face, over he went and out went his light. 

"I look no more," he said, shivering as, after five 
minutes' hasty retreat, he stood on the roof among 
those who had sent him down. "Let some one else 
go; but I tell you the child is not there." 

But one of the crafty, cruel men had sharp wits. 
"Could he have crept into the charcoal bunker?" he 
suggested, and the faces round him lit up. But the 
lad's remained sullen, as he wiped the blood from 
Down's scratches. 

"Mayhap," he said. "But I go not near that cat 
again!" 

So, as no one else was small enough to slip through 
the narrow slits of windows, the conspirators could 
only curse their bad luck. 

Thus it came to pass that the hours passed by with- 
out further attempt at baby-theft, while Foster- 
father snored and Head-nurse dreamed the most 
heavenly dreams of wonderful court ceremonials, and 
all the others were wrapped in the prof oundest slum- 
bers. 

But they all woke at last, and once more there was 
the most terrible hullabaloo until Foster-mother recol- 
lected the kitten in the charcoal bunker. Whereupon 
every one in turn flattened themselves on the floor 
and reached in, and Roy actually got his head and one 
shoulder in; but no one could feel anything or find 

75 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

out how big it was or anything about it. Whereupon 
the two women began mutual recriminations and the 
men stood helpless, when suddenly Down appeared 
with the kitten in her mouth, and Baby Akbar, who 
had evidently been comfortably asleep on the blanket 
amid the straw, came crawling after his new pet. 

"So far so good!" said Foster-father, who, noticing 
a fallen piece of mortar at the window-sill, had been 
carefully examining certain signs and scratches both 
without and within, "but if I be not much mistaken, 
some one hath been through here this night. And 
that we were all drugged ye must know if the inside 
of your mouths be like mine! So we have to thank 
Heaven and the cat for an escape!" 

And so they had, though it was a sore trial once 
more to the women to have nothing but guesswork 
to go upon. 

"I wish I knew," murmured poor Foster-mother 
mournfully, as she watched Baby Akbar, and Down, 
and the kitten, and Tumbu, all playing together be- 
fore the fire. 

But once more Baby Akbar was silent, and Down 
told nobody unless it was Tumbu. Perhaps he did 
know, because he allowed Down's kitten to play with 
his tail! 



76 



CHAPTER IX 

SPRING 

WINTER passed to spring and spring to early sum- 
mer, and yet no certain news came of King Humayon 
or Queen Humeeda. Foster-father almost gave up 
hope, yet he said little, though he took counsel with 
Old Faithful, and he in his turn consulted the old 
mountain chief, who at the assemblage had been the 
first to cry, "Long live the Heir-to-Empire." 

But the old man shook his head. The times were 
new, he said ; very few people remembered, as he did, 
the old ways, the old Kings. But for the sake of 
Babar the brave they might always count on his sword 
and the sabres of fifty or more of his followers. So, 
if the worst came to the worst, they were welcome to 
an asylum in his eagle's eyrie of a fortress, where at 
any rate they could all die together fighting for the 
King; and what more did any brave man want? 

This was not much consolation to Foster-father, 
who felt that there was nothing to be done, save by 
every means in his power, to curry favour with the 
Princess Sultanum. 

But, indeed, the little Heir-to-Empire made himself 
friends wherever he went; they could not help liking 
the frank little fellow who spoke to them so freely, 
with a certain grave dignity of his own. For by the 

77 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

time the peach gardens around Kandahar lay like 
clouds of pink and white about the old domed city, 
little Prince Akbar was in looks and ways a child of 
three or even four; so big and strong was he. He 
spoke perfectly in his childish way, with great empha- 
sis and a curious, soft burr over his r's and h's. And 
he actually tried to wrestle with his cousin Ibrahim, 
who was, however, rather a puny boy, despite the fact 
that he was three years older than the little Heir-to- 
Empire. 

But with Roy as playmate Akbar began all sorts 
of games. There was a high, walled peach garden 
not far from the bastion, where the little Prince used 
to be allowed to go ; and there, during the long sunny 
hours, the Rajput lad, to whom such things were all 
curiously familiar, taught the child how to ride on 
Tumbu's back, and how to hold a spear. Aye! and 
to take a tent peg, too; the peg being only a soft car- 
rot stuck in the earth! But the great game was shoot- 
ing with a bow and arrow, and in this, before spring 
passed to summer, the pupil was a match with his 
teacher except in strength; for, from the very begin- 
ning, Akbar showed himself steady and straight as a 
shot; so it is no wonder he grew up to be the finest 
marksman in India. But it would take too long to 
tell all the games they played, all the manly sports 
which the little prince learned without any difficulty. 
There was a shallow marble tank in the middle of the 
78 



SPRING 

garden, where he took to the water like a duck, and 
would lie on his back and kick and shout with laughter 
as the tank got rough with waves, till Foster-mother 
would beg him not to drown, as the water splashed 
over him high in the air. 

But Foster-father always reproved her for her 
fears. "Leave the lad to learn King's ways," he said, 
"and thank Heaven the Rajput foundling is here to 
teach him. Think you I could tumble head over heels 
in air or water or ride bareback standing on one 
leg?" 

"No, indeed!" would reply Head-nurse, who stifled 
her terrors from a sense of duty, "none, seeing thy 
figure, friend, would ask so much of thee." 

Then, when Akbar grew tired, Roy would sit lean- 
ing his back against a peach tree so as to make a soft 
pillow for his little master, and Akbar would lean 
against him and listen to endless stories while the soft 
fresh breeze stole over the garden wall, and sent show- 
ers of pink peach petals on both the boys. And some- 
times the little Prince, outwearied, would fall asleep, 
and then Roy would sit still as a mouse, gently flick- 
ing away with the end of his muslin turban the blos- 
soms that fell on the little sleeper's face. But his 
thoughts would be busy, wondering above other things 
why it was that, do what he would, he could not help 
when they were alone at play sometimes calling the 
Heir-to-Empire "little brother." It was dreadfully 

79 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

wrong of him, of course, and Head-nurse would 
rightly cuff his ears if she overheard it! 

Then Akbar would wake and call imperiously for 
some favourite story, and as often as not it would be 
the tale of "How Rajah Rasalu swung the Seventy 
Maidens." 

And Roy would reply submissively: "It is ordered, 
Highness!" and begin: 

"Now Rajah Rasalu, soft heart and strong, heard 
a pitiful voice as he rode along. 'Oh traveller! trav- 
eller! turn aside, and help God's creature,' it moaned 
and cried. So the Prince turned straight and saw 
that a fire had caught a bush, blazing higher and 
higher, while a tiny cricket lay gasping for breath, 
half-scorched, half-choked, and nigh to its death. 
Then Rajah Rasalu, soft hearted and stout, put his 
hand in the fire and snatched it out! And the cricket 
drew forth a feeler and said: 'Take this, my preserver, 
'twill bring you aid; should any thing ever prove 
troublesome, burn this in the fire and I will come.' 
Then Rasalu laughed with a great big laugh, 'I thank 
you, weakling! But none of your chaff! You 
couldn't help me I'll go bail.' So he rode on careless 
o'er hill and dale, a glittering knight in his shining 
mail, till he came to the city of King Surkap, whom 
he'd sworn to kill with his sword so sharp. Now as 
he rode through a garden gay, Seventy Maidens 
barred the way; Seventy Maidens young and fair, 
80 



SPRING 

with flowers decking their golden hair. Seventy 
daughters of the king, come out to play and laugh and 
swing and jibe at the stripling who'd sworn to slay 
their father, the mightiest king of this day. But the 
youngest maid had a heart of gold, and when she saw 
Rasalu so bold, and strong and handsome riding to 
death, on his horse Iraki, she caught her breath, and 
whispered to him as he passed her way: 

" 'Fair prince on thy charger so gray, 
Turn thee back, turn thee back. 
If thou lower est thy lance for the fray, 
Thy head will be forfeit to-day. 
Dost love life ? then, stranger ! I pray 
Turn thee back turn thee back/ 

"But Rasalu smiled in the maiden's face, and drew 
his rein for an instant's space, while he gave her 
answer with courtly grace: 'Fair maiden, I come 
from afar, sworn conqueror in love and in war. Thy 
father my coming will rue, for his head in four pieces 
I'll hew. Then forth as a bridegroom I'll ride with 
you, little maid, as my bride.' 

"Now at these words, and his face so kind, and 
strong, and brave, the maiden's mind fluttered, the 
blood through her heartstrings whirled, she felt she 
could follow him through the world; but her sixty- 
nine sisters were jealous and cried: 'Not so fast, 
young man ! If she be your bride, you be our younger 

81 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

brother, beside! So do our bidding or go on your 
way.' 'Fair sisters,' quoth he, 'let me hear your say!' 
Now the sisters vowed he should not succeed, so they 
took a whole hundred-weight of seed, as fine as the 
hundred-weight of sand they mixed it with, then gave 
command: 'If you wish to marry our sister, sir, take 
the seed from the sand without demur.' 

"Then Rajah Rasalu stood aghast; but he thought 
of the cricket's gift at last, and taking it out of his 
pocket thrust it into the fire, and a cloud as dust 
showed in the sky and the distant whirr of thousands 
of wings caused the air to stir, as, dark'ning the day 
like a fun'ral pall, a flight of crickets appeared at the 
call. 'What is our task?' asked his friend with a 
laugh; 'only that? I've brought too many by half!' 
So they set to work with a will indeed, till the sand 
lay separate from the seed, and sixty-nine maidens 
pouted and frowned as they wondered what new task 
could be found, to puzzle Rasalu and keep him there 
a slave to the wishes of maidens fair. 'Now swing us 
all, sir, one by one, when we grow tired your task is 
done!' they laughed in their sleeve, for they knew 
right well, that when they'd be tired, none could tell! 

"But Rasalu laughed: 'What! seventy girls for 
my little bride is the pearl of pearls and only one 
man to swing the lot! Shall I spend my life in such 
silly rot? No! into one swing the seventy go; I'll 
fasten the rope to my mighty bow, and shoot an arrow 
82 



SPRING 

for all I know, so in with you, girls, sit all in a row, 
and don't be frightened, my little dears, 111 swing till 
you're tired, so have no fears.' 

"Then the seventy clambered into one swing so 
merry, so careless, their voices ring. And Rasalu 
stood in his shining array, as merry and careless as 
happy as they. He fastened the ropes to his mighty 
bow, and bent till it would no further go; then with a 
twang he loosed the string, and like an arrow the 
laden swing with its burden of seventy maidens fair, 
shot like an arrow into the air. Merry and careless 
with laugh and smile, up in the sky for many a mile; 
like a soaring bird in the distant blue, while merry 
and careless, and tall and true, Rasalu waited upon 
the plain, till the swing swung back to its place again. 
Then he out with his sword and laughed anew, 'Ye 
have had a fine ride, ye giggling crew; enough and 
to spare, so out with you there!' Then he severed the 
ropes with one mighty sweep, and the seventy maidens 
fell in a heap ; and some were broken and some were 
bruised, and the only one that was not ill-used was 
the youngest maid, for she did not drop till the very 
last, so she fell on top!" 

And here Prince Akbar used always to laugh 
gravely and say: "Glad she didn't tumble down 
really, for she was a nice little girl." 

One day when the peach blossoms had all floated 
away, leaving in their place grey-green fluffy ovals 

83 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

that by-and-bye would be luscious ripe fruits, Foster- 
father arrived in a great state of excitement just as 
Rasalu had finished swinging his Seventy Maidens. 

"News, news!" he cried; "real news at last; and 
thank Heaven they are good! My master, the King, 
has not only secured shelter, but help, and hath writ- 
ten to his brother, Prince Askurry, advising him not 
to listen to ill advice, but to give in his allegiance at 
once, when all shall be forgotten. In token of which 
clemency he is sending to his still-dearly-beloved 
brother, Her Royal Highness the Princess Bakshee 
Bani Begum, that she may be a companion to her 
half-brother, the Heir-to-Empire." 

Prince Akbar, who was leaning on Roy's breast, 
suddenly sat up. "Is that my sister?" he asked 
eagerly, "is she a nice little girl like Rasalu's bride?" 

Head-nurse laughed. "Nice enough I'll warrant, 
though I never saw her; she has been since she was 
born, six years past, with her mother's people; but 
so long as they send no fine ladies of nurses with her 
she is welcome." 

Little Prince Akbar stood up and stretched him- 
self, and looked at Head-nurse critically. 

"Akka will welcome her, and Akka will tell you to 
be her nurse, and Akka will swing her a great big 
swing." 

So far as he was concerned that settled the ques- 
tion; but up at the Court there were endless question- 
84 



SPRING 

ings of heart. Prince Askurry was, as ever, in two 
minds as to what he should do. Cruel brother Kum- 
ran, who was Governor at Kabul, pressed his advice 
to stand firm, to send the child to him, to let him show 
King Humayon that paid Persian troops could not 
stand up against Indian ones. But Princess Sul- 
tanum had really become fond of the little Heir-to- 
Empire, and felt sure that if they only played their 
cards carefully the king, out of gratitude, would con- 
sent to a betrothal between his son and her little 
daughter Amina. And in the end the wife's coun- 
sel prevailed. So a better lodgment was found for 
the royal children in an old palace surrounded by a 
lovely garden, and here, just as the roses were begin- 
ning to bloom, little Prince Akbar, dressed in his best, 
stood awaiting his sister's arrival. He had insisted 
on having, like Rajah Rasalu, a coat of mail; so 
Foster-mother had made him a tight-fitting corselet 
of silver tissue, in which he looked very fine indeed, 
as he stood brandishing a wooden sword covered with 
tin foil. 

But when the red and gold bedecked camel did 
finally come up the marble-paved pathway with silent 
soft elastic swing, little Akbar forgot all about the 
part he was playing, and when he saw his sister, just 
ran up to her and hugged her tight, and said breath- 
lessly: "Ah! you are a nice little girl!" 

And a very nice little girl she was! Very small for 

85 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

her age, with a little oval delicate face, big hazel eyes, 
and brownish hair all plaited in tiny, tiny little plaits 
on her forehead. 

And she was dressed just like a grown-up, with 
little ear-rings and wristlets and anklets and necklaces 
and rings, with the dearest, daintiest of flimsey gauze 
veils set with little silver stars wound all about her! 
Never, said Head-nurse, had been such a darling little 
marionette, and when the small person fell gracefully 
at her brother's feet and begged his favour in a little 
piping voice, that stern believer in court etiquette was 
perfectly enchanted. 

"It will be a real boon to the First- Gentleman-of- 
the-World, the Courtly-one-of-Courts, etc., etc., to 
have the society of his equals," she said with a dark- 
ling look at Princess Sultanum's Head-nurse, who 
had brought Prince Ibrahim and Baby Amina to 
welcome their cousin. 

But, after all, Bakshee Bani Begum did not turn 
out so demure as she looked! Indeed, when Head- 
nurse was not by, she was a regular tomboy; and after 
a whole morning spent in most lady-like fashion either 
playing with her dolls, or stringing beads, while 
Down, the cat, on her lap blinked and purred and 
stared out on the world with her big blue eyes and her 
little white feet tucked well inside, she would, when 
the women retired to get ready the midday meal, 
spring up like a squirrel, scattering beads and cats as 
86 



SPRING 

if they were of no account ! Then the garden would 
re-echo to children's laughter. 

And she would let Mirak, as she elected to call her 
brother, swing her for hours, but she obstinately re- 
fused to tumble down! 

"But, Bija," expostulated the little lad, "the prin- 
cess did tumble down in the story." 

"I am not a princess in a story'' said Bija calmly, 
"I am Her Royal Highness Princess Bakshee Bani 
Begum." 



87 



CHAPTER X 

THE NIGHT OF RECORD 

So THE summer days passed and winter set in once 
more. Though more satisfied, Foster-father felt still 
that safety depended on King Humayon's success or 
failure. 

So, whenever one of the long files of camels tied 
together in a string, head-and-tail, showed on the hill 
road above Kandahar, he was off to the halting-place 
outside the city to see what news it had collected in its 
march from Hindustan; for caravans in those days 
were the postmen. 

And sometimes he heard one thing, and sometimes 
another, but as often as not he returned as he went, 
without any remedy but patience. 

"Anyhow the child grows in stature and strength," 
Head-nurse would say, "and our present lodging is 
better than our last!" 

Which was true; for the old house of three stories 
which they now inhabited was full of little rooms lead- 
ing one out of the other like a rabbit-warren. And if 
there was no furniture in them, so much the better for 
the children's games of "I espy" and "Touch who 
Touch can." 

For Bija and Mirak played such games with infi- 
nite zest. As Head-nurse had foretold, the coining 
88 



THE NIGHT OF RECORD 

of his little sister had been an immense gain to the 
Heir-to-Empire; not only in manners, but also in his 
outlook upon life. For Princess Bakshee Bani 
Begum was a very determined small person, who did 
not in the least see why the elder sister of a boy should 
give way to him in all things, simply because he was 
Heir-to-Empire. 

"I won't have it, Mirak," she would say with a 
stamp of her little foot ; "y u shall not break my doll's 
head just because you want to." 

So Prince Akbar, who was full of sound common 
sense, began to think she had reason on her side ; and 
this was of great advantage to him, for with Head- 
nurse, and Foster-mother and the others, he stood a 
great chance of being spoiled. 

And after a time he became quite devoted to the 
prim little maid, who, for all her primness in general, 
could be as wild as a hawk on occasion. 

And out of that arose an incident which, unfortu- 
nately, turned Princess Sultanum against the little 
lad and so endangered his safety. It came about in 
this way. Prince Askurry's son Yakoob was, as has 
been said, three years older than Akbar, a lanky, 
rather weedy lad-ling of nearly six. Now Prince 
Askurry was himself a noted wrestler, and was de- 
termined his son should be one also. So he had the 
boy carefully taught, and set a good deal of store by 
the quickness of the little fellow in learning the grips, 

89 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

and how to trip up an adversary. On high days and 
holidays, indeed, Prince Askurry and his wife used 
often to amuse themselves by seeing the discomfiture 
of other less experienced children who were set up to 
compete with the young wrestler. Baby Akbar had 
been one of these, and being so much younger, he had 
always gone down before Yakoob's skill; but he had 
always taken his overthrow in good part, though 
Head-nurse had felt as if she could not keep her fin- 
gers off the victor. It was not fair, she would say 
afterwards, to match a baby of two with a child of 
six, and then she would try to hug the vanquished 
Heir-to-Empire and cover him with kisses; but Ak- 
bar, always independent, resented this. "Akbar 
tumble him down some day," he would say philo- 
sophically; and indeed there seemed every chance of 
it, for, mere baby as he was, there was more promise 
of future strength in his little finger than in Yakoob's 
whole body. 

Now, as winter came on, the children were driven 
indoors for their play, and Old Faithful at their ear- 
nest request, rigged up a swing in a large empty room 
in the palace, and here Princess Bija would be swung 
like the Seventy Maidens, until Prince Akbar wearied 
of swinging her; and knowing that nothing would 
induce his elder sister to tumble down like the prin- 
cesses in the story, would say quite plaintively: 

"Please, Bija, get down; I'm tired of being 
90 



THE NIGHT OF RECORD 

Rasalu," when the little maid would descend grace- 
fully and they would play at something else. 

But one day, just after the New Year, Prince 
Yakoob came to spend the day with his cousins, and 
the children fell to acting the adventures of Rajah 
Rasalu ; Yakoob, as the guest, playing the hero's part. 

They got through several of them quite success- 
fully, Princess Bija making a spirited carpenter's lad 
and killing his dragon with great vigour, while the 
Heir-to-Empire, disguising his deep baby voice in a 
high squeak, doubled the parts of the seventy-nine 
maidens and the cricket. So all went merry as a mar- 
riage bell until Rasalu had to order the giggling crew 
out of the swing. 

Then, of course, Bija refused; whereupon Yakoob, 
a spoiled boy, cast aside the tinsel-covered wooden 
sword, and whipped out from his belt a toy dagger 
his father had given him that morning. It was not 
very sharp, but very little cuts a taut rope, and one 
furious slash severed some of the strands, the weight 
of the two children did the rest, and there they were 
both on the marble floor! 

And unfortunately the "pearl of pearls," Rajah 
Rasalu's bride, did not fall on top. She fell under- 
neath the Heir-to-Empire, and the Heir-to-Empire 
was heavy! So there was her poor little lip all cut 
and her pretty little nose all bleeding. Then two 
Head-nurses rushed in, and two Foster-mothers, and 

91 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

ever so many pairs of nursery attendants, each taking 
the part of their respective nurslings, and there was a 
terrible to-do, for, of course, one Head-nurse said it 
was the fault of the other Head-nurse, and so on. In 
fact peace did not return until the party separated 
and the offender, Prince Yakoob, was being joggetted 
back to his mother by his excited attendants, while 
Princess Bija was having her swollen nose soothed by 
cold water. She did not cry much, but she was ter- 
ribly indignant with every one, including her brother. 

He couldn't have prevented his cousin from cutting 
the rope, of course, but he might have made his 
cousin's nose bleed also! If she hadn't been other- 
wise occupied she could have done it herself; she was 
quite sure she could; or at any rate have done some- 
thing quite as disagreeable! 

She looked very fierce as she spoke, while Akbar 
listened with grieved attention. In fact, what Bija 
would have done, had Head-nurse not had her in her 
arms cossetting her, became quite a subject of conver- 
sation between the two children, Bija sitting de- 
murely threading beads and inventing new methods 
of just punishment, and the Heir-to-Empire lolling 
on the floor pretending to sharpen his tinfoil sword, 
and interposing objections such as, "But you couldn't 
do that, Bija, you're not strong enough," or "That 
wouldn't be fair, Bija, for he only hurt you a little, 
you know." For Akbar was born with a sense of f air- 
92 



THE NIGHT OF RECORD 

play and justice which never forsook him, because he 
always gave it fair play. 

So the idea of somehow getting the better of 
Yakoob became a fixed one in the little lad's mind 
until an opportunity for action came to him. 

It was about a month afterwards, on the "Festival 
of Record"; that is to say, the day when good Mo- 
hammedans pray for guidance during the coming 
year, and believe that God's Angel, accompanied by 
the spirits of their dead ancestors, appears on earth to 
judge the record of the past year, and write on the 
forehead of each man and woman and child what re- 
ward or punishment is deserved in the next. In the 
evening, thousands of little lamps are lit, so that 
there shall be no darkness anywhere, but all things 
shall be made manifest, and when the little platters of 
sweets and food are set out lest any of the spirits, 
who come to plead for their descendants, should feel 
hungry, it is a very solemn affair; but the day is 
generally spent in amusement. 

So Princess Sultanum arranged an entertainment, 
and, as usual, there was to be a bout of wrestling be- 
tween her son and some little companions, amongst 
them the Heir-to-Empire. Head-nurse was furious, 
of course. The show was invented, she declared, to 
disgrace the Mighty-in-Pomp, the Pole-star of the 
Universe, etc., etc. 

Akbar himself took it very complacently and al- 

93 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

lowed himself to be undressed and oiled all over, so 
as to make a grip very hard ; for these are the Indian 
customs. And a very sturdy specimen he looked as 
he stood up and crossed his arms and then slapped 
himself with resounding slaps before crossing them 
again; also after Indian fashion, for so much he had 
learned of wrestling. 

Then the signal was given, and Yakoob, as was his 
wont, began, in imitation of grown-up wrestlers, to 
steal an advance on his adversary. 

But Akbar would none of that. Whether, watch- 
ing real wrestling, he had noticed the method of at- 
tack he employed, or whether Roy had taught him, or 
whether he got it out of his own head, does not matter ; 
but the little fellow rushed forward furiously and 
charging like a butting ram, caught his cousin full in 
the stomach, then making a snatch at his ankle 
tripped him up. So there in a second was Yakoob 
on his back, and Akbar, breathless but triumphant, on 
top of him. 

"Now you've tumbled down," remarked the Heir- 
to-Empire suavely, as, astride his cousin's prostrate 
body, he paused for breath ere getting up. 

Of course, some people said it wasn't fair; but 
others admitted that though not the polite style of 
wrestling, such a method was strictly within the rules. 
All, however, admired the big, bold, strong little 
Heir-to-Empire; all but his aunt and uncle; and the 
94 



THE NIGHT OF RECORD 

former bid Head-nurse take away her young savage 
at once, while the latter's crafty face, uneasy before, 
settled into a scowl. 

But Head-nurse could hardly contain her joy, even 
when Foster-father shook his wise old head and said 
he would not have had it happen for all the wealth of 
the world, for of late, if he were not much mistaken, 
things had been shaping ill for his young master, and 
that very morning a secret messenger had come in 
from Kabul. What it might portend who could say; 
but it was bad fortune the child should lose favour at 
Court to such slight purpose. 

"Slight, indeed!" sniffed Head-nurse. "Is it not 
something to have shown that woman that her brat 
cannot stand up before true Kingship?" 

"I would it were so, woman," replied Foster- 
father, "but a child under three with but two old men 
and two boys for protection cannot show much 

fight." 

Head-nurse tossed her head. "So we women are 
not to count " she began; but Baby Akbar had been 
listening seriously and now put in with his deep child- 
ish voice, and a wise little shake of the head : 

"And there's Tumbu and Down, too ; they can bite 
and scratch beautifully for me when they like." 

Whereupon Foster-mother caught him up, and 
wept, and swore that Heaven must and would pro- 
tect such a heart's darling. 

95 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Perhaps it was this conversation which put the idea 
of getting help into the children's heads, but after a 
time it was evident they had some plan between them, 
for after watching the women light hundreds of little 
lamps, and set out a quantity of tiny platters full of 
sweets, they stole off by themselves to an empty room 
which was almost dark and began to whisper. 

"I think it had better be grand-dad," said the Heir- 
to-Empire gravely, " 'cos my father isn't dead yet, 
and they must be deaders, you know, if they are really 
to help." 

"And we'll take the little summer room at the very 
top of the house, Mirak, so's we'll be able to stop him 
on his way down, 'case any one else has got a platter 
for him," said Bija the practical. "Now, Mirak, I'll 
fetch the sweets if you'll get some lamps. They won't 
be missed, you know, if we take them betwixt and 
between." 

After that there was much secret hurrying up and 
down stairs and secret gurglings of delight as the 
preparations advanced. 

"Oh, Mirak! Won't it be lovely? He's sure to 
come in when he sees it!" said the little girl, clasping 
her hands. "And Old Faithful was saying that 
Grand-dad Babar was as good as twenty other men 
in a fight, so then you'll be quite safe." 

But Mirak's face was solemn. "If Grand-dad 
doesn't know it's for him he won't come in, and he 
96 



THE NIGHT OF RECORD 

won't eat the sweets either. It's greedy to eat sweets 
as doesn't belong to you, and he wasn't greedy. Old 
Faithful says he wasn't. He was a real King." 

"Don't you think he might be greedy just to help 
you?" suggested Bija mournfully; but after think- 
ing a little she clapped her hands. "I have it, Mirak! 
If his name was on it that would do ! I think I could 
write 'Ba-ba.' It's only the two first letters, you see, 
and I know them; and you could prick yourself for 
some blood to write with, and I could use my little 
finger as a pen. It's very, very tiddly wee." 

It was, indeed! and Mirak sat large-eyed in ad- 
miration of his sister's ingenuity, while she, mistress 
of the situation, did this and that until even she was 
satisfied. And really the little arched and domed 
cupola set in Eastern fashion on the roof, looked quite 
pretty with the little glittering lights in a square on 
the white marble floor, and the platter of sweets 
placed in the middle of the square, whereon in 
smeared red letters showed this : 



BA BA 

"And now, Mirak!" chattered Bija, "we'll go down 
and go to bed like good boys and girls, and then when 
the others are saying their prayers and going to sleep 
we can come up again and sleep here." 

9T 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

"Won't it be very cold, Bija?" asked Mirak, whose 
little nose was half frost-bitten already, for a cold 
wind was blowing off the snow hills. 

"We will bring quilts," said the little lady with a 
superior air. 

So, about an hour afterwards, after the children 
had been put to bed and their elders had begun the 
serious work of watching and waiting and dozing 
through the night, two little figures, well wrapped up 
in quilted cotton gowns and dragging quilted cotton 
blankets behind them, stole up the stairs to the roof 
of the house. 

"I'm going to ask God to let him come," said Baby 
Akbar solemnly. So they both touched the cold mar- 
ble floor with their warm little foreheads and said: 

"Please Great God! Let our grand-dad Babar 
come and take care of us, and be kind to us, and not 
let the Angel write nasty things on our foreheads for 
this next year!" 

Then they cuddled themselves closely together in 
the blankets and were soon fast asleep. 

So fast asleep that even when, after the short hulla- 
balloo which followed on the discovery that they were 
not in their beds, they were traced to the roof, they 
did not thoroughly wake up, but were carried down 
again without knowing much about it. 

"Shall I blow out the lights?" asked Roy, as Head- 
nurse prepared to descend also. 
98 



THE NIGHT OF RECORD 

Head-nurse looked round to Foster-father for his 
opinion. 

"No!" he said shortly, "leave them! The children 
have asked some one to eat those sweets. Let be! 
They may want all the help they can get." 

So all the night long the little lamps twinkled and 
twinkled. 

But when morning came there was not a sweet left! 

"It must have been the rats," said Meroo, who, as 
cook, had gone up to see what he could save. "I saw 
the tail of one disappearing." 

But Foster-father said swiftly: "I would it were 
some other helper, for the time has come for help. 
Prince Askurry hath sent to say we start for Kabul 
and cruel brother Kumran at noon to-day!" 



99 



CHAPTER XI 

A WINTER MARCH 

IT was only too true! The escort which was to see 
them on the road was already occupying the garden, 
the horses champing their bits and fretting because 
the long branches of the roses at which they snatched 
held nothing but thorns. 

Prince Akbar, indeed, was too much interested in 
watching them and wondering if they were very 
hungry to take much heed of anything else, but 
Princess Bakshee Bani Begum, who was a very prac- 
tical little person, at once began to pack up her 
favourite doll. 

"You had better choose out some toy, Mirak," said 
she, "or you will be wanting to play with mine, and 
I won't let you." 

But Mirak was busy with the horses. 

"I sha'n't want anything but my sword," he re- 
plied valiantly. "I'm a big boy now, and I'm going 
to play with real things." Then he turned to one of 
the troopers with a quaint air of authority. "Your 
horse is too thin. When I am King I shall see that 
my men give their horses enough to eat." 

Foster-father, who overheard the child, paused in 
the hasty arrangements he was making to look at the 
little Heir-to-Empire and put up a prayer that the 
100 



A WINTER MARCH 

fates might let him be King; but the future looked 
black indeed. The road to Kabul must still be blocked 
with snow, even if more did not fall by the way. A 
likely happening, with the bitter north wind and the 
dull lowering sky. And if the young child escaped 
the danger of extreme cold and extreme hardship, 
what might not be before him in Kabul itself? 

Better, it might have been, for those in charge of 
him, to have risked all, taken refuge with the old 
mountain chief, and died like brave men. There was 
but one comfort in the whole affair. Prince Askurry 
must know that Humayon or his friends were close 
at hand, or he would not be in such a desperate hurry 
to send away the Heir-to-Empire. 

And this, indeed, was the truth. The fear of a 
rescue was so real and immediate that Prince Askurry 
had had to make his decision in a minute. So there 
was scarcely any time for preparation, and by noon 
the party had started for the three hundred and odd 
miles of mountainous country that lay between them 
and Kabul. Only the children's faces were cheerful; 
even Roy's showed grave and anxious. 

They rode fast and far till dusk fell, when they 
had covered full twenty miles. For the last few, both 
the women, who were mounted behind troopers, had 
almost been dropping with fatigue, but the captain 
of the escort was under orders to go as far as pos- 
sible that night, so he pushed on to reach a place 

101 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

called Robat. Here they were all unceremoniously 
bundled into one large room, and by the steady tramp 
through the night of a sentry outside, Foster-father 
judged they were complete prisoners. Luckily they 
were given plenty of fuel to replenish the fire that 
roared in the wide chimney, so the elders squatted 
round it and dozed, holding the children in their laps. 
They slept as soundly as if they had been in their 
beds, and so did Tumbu and Down, who had both in- 
sisted on being of the party; the latter having quite 
calmly taken her place on Horse-chestnut's broad 
wavy back on the wide cushion of felt which Foster- 
father used as a saddle-cloth. She had left her kitten 
behind her as it was now quite a big tom-cat, and able 
to take care of itself. 

In a way, both Tumbu and Down had already been 
of service to their young master, for the troopers of 
the Escort had been amused by the golliwog's gam- 
bols, and had admired Down's dignity, so they were 
more inclined to treat the whole party in kindly fash- 
ion. Indeed, next morning, the Captain of the Escort, 
whose anxiety about a rescue had, perhaps, been les- 
sened by the uneventful night, was much less strict in 
his orders, and took Prince Akbar on his own saddle 
and let him hold the reins. 

"He is a brave, bold lad," he said to Foster-father; 
"were he to live, he would make a good King." Then 
he frowned, his mouth hardened and Foster-father, 
102 



A WINTER MARCH 

watching him, augured ill for the safety of the Heir- 
to-Empire. For the time, however, all went well, 
though Foster-father remarked that they kept off the 
direct track as much as possible; no doubt to avoid 
pursuit. And at Ghuznee, where they halted the sec- 
ond night, the Captain of the Escort sent nearly all 
his men into the city by one gate, taking with them, 
despite their protestations, Roy and Meroo and Old 
Faithful, while he himself, with but one or two troop- 
ers, Foster-father, Foster-mother, Head-nurse and 
the two children, entered by another and found lodg- 
ing in the caravanserai as common travellers. Evi- 
dently, Foster-father surmised, it was thought best 
for some reason or another to conceal the fact that 
the Heir-to-Empire was being carried off to Kabul; 
and something happened that evening to make him 
certain that this was the case. It was dark ere they 
arrived, so the other travellers in the serai took little 
heed of the small party, especially as there were 
women and children in it, and it is not polite in East- 
ern countries to take any notice of them. But while 
Head-nurse and Foster-mother were busy settling 
down the children's quilts in the little dark archway 
room, which was all the accommodation available, and 
Foster-father had gone to purchase them some milk 
for their supper, the little Prince and Princess, greatly 
excited at the novelty of their surroundings, wandered 
out into the dark square enclosure, where fires burned 

103 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

here and there in the open, lit by travellers who were 
cooking their evening meal. They stood by these 
watching what was going on with quick interest, an- 
swering questions that were put to them with frank 
smiles and laughter. Being dressed in heavy sheep- 
skin outer coats to keep out the cold, no one guessed 
that they were other than they seemed, poor travellers' 
children, until at the end of a long row of picketed 
horses at the further end of the courtyard, Akhar 
saw Horse-chestnut, Foster-father's pony. Now 
Foster-father had only had time to tie the poor beast 
head and heel, so there the honest creature stood, look- 
ing very dejected, with emptiness before it, while the 
troopers' horses beside him were enjoying great 
bundles of green grass. The little fellow flushed up in 
a moment ; he called loudly to a man who stood near : 

"Ho! slave there! bring my pony grass dost hear? 
and be quick!" 

The man laughed. "Alah!" he said; "whose son 
be you to give orders that fashion?" 

"Whose son?" echoed the child passionately. "I 
am " 

But Bija clung to his arm. "H'st, Mirak!" she 
whispered. "Remember what Head-nurse said that 
we were not to tell " 

Akbar stood irresolute; he was wise beyond his 
years. "But Horse-chestnut must not be hungry. I 
won't have it! he shall have grass," he said angrily; 
104 



A WINTER MARCH 

then, without another word he walked up to the next 
horse, took a great armful of the grass that lay in 
front of it and scattered it before his favourite. 

"So there! slave!'* he cried defiantly with a stamp 
of his foot. 

The man looked at him curiously, said nothing, but 
went over to some others and began to whisper. 

A minute afterwards, Foster-father returning, 
found the children the centre of a little crowd eager 
in enquiry whence they came, whither they were go- 
ing, and, ere he could get them safely to their quar- 
ters, the attention of the Captain of the Escort had 
been arrested, he came out frowning and fuming. 

"We march again in an hour," he said angrily to 
Foster-father. "On thy head be it if thou can'st not 
keep thy young fighting cock in order 'twill be all 
over the town by midnight !" 

Foster-father did not often let his temper get the 
better of his prudence, but he could not resist saying 
mildly: "Kingship is like the musk-bag, friend, that 
was broken at the royal child's birth. It diffuses its 
perfume over the habitable world, and none can mis- 
take it." 

The Captain of the Escort shrugged his shoulders. 
"Then it shall smell in the wilderness, friend; for I 
run no risks of rescue this side the passes. So bid the 
women give the young crowing cockerel his supper 
and prepare to start again. There will be a moon in 

105 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

another hour and we can push on. Meanwhile I go to 
warn the other folk where to rejoin us." 

It was a bitter cold night. The wind blew keenly 
from the snow before them, and by the time they 
reached a miserable village, high up on the slopes of 
the pass, every one save the two children was chilled to 
the bone; but they, well happed in all the coverings 
the fugitives could compass, were warm; Akbar, in 
Foster-father's arms, with Down, the cat, cuddled up 
beside him, and acting as a hot bottle! Once more 
there was plenty of fuel in the rude hut where they 
found shelter, and stiffened limbs and half -frosted 
fingers soon began to thaw. Tumbu, who had kept 
himself supple by, as usual, bounding about, was the 
only one of the party who did not doze off at once, now 
comparative comfort was reached. 

But he was curiously restless. Over and over again 
he rose, went to the door and seemed to listen. Then 
he began to whine a little, then to scratch at the door 
as if he wanted to get out. Finally, finding no one 
paid any attention, he let loose one short, sharp bark, 
which awakened Head-nurse, who with an impatient 
look to see if her children had been disturbed, and 
an angry whisper, "Go, then! thou mean-born beast," 
rose softly, set open the door for a second, then closed 
it again, shivering with the chill blast that swept in. 
But Tumbu was out like a flash and disappeared in 
the darkness. 
106 



A WINTER MARCH 

It must have been an hour afterward that every 
one's slumber was disturbed by the most insistent 
barking that ever was heard. Even Akbar, usually 
the soundest of sleepers, sat up and rubbed his eyes. 

"The evil-dispositioned hound!" said Head-nurse 
in drowsy anger. "I deemed he had left us forever, 
and good riddance, too." 

But little Prince Akbar, half awake, protested in 
defence of his dear dog. 

"Tumbu only barks when he wants something, 
nurse; go and see what it is." 

"A likely story!" cried Head-nurse. 

"Well," interposed Foster-father philosophically, 
"some one must go if any one is to sleep." 

Whereat he went to the door; but Tumbu on the 
doorstep refused to come in; he barked, bounced off, 
and returned the next minute to whine and bark again. 

"He only wants something; go and see what it is," 
came Mirak's deep-toned voice. "I know he wants 
something." 

"Lo! man alive!" grumbled Head-nurse; "shut the 
door whichever way it is. I perish with cold!" 

Foster-father was a wise man, so to avoid further 
discussion he stepped out and shut the door behind 
him. Thus for a minute or two there was peace. Then 
Foster-father's voice rose urgently from outside. 

"Open! I say open! Quick!" 

Foster-mother flew to obey, and her husband stag- 

107 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

gered in, bearing some one in his arms. "God send 
the boy be not dead," he said as he laid down his 
burden. 

It was Roy the Rajput! 

"I found him quite close, frozen by the cold," he 
continued, as they set to work before the fire to rub 
the poor, stiff limbs and force a few drops of hot milk 
through the blue lips. 

It was some time before a faint sigh, a quiver of 
the eyelids told that Roy was once more coming back 
to the world ; but after that it was not long before he 
could sit up and tell them what had happened. 

He had managed to evade the eyes of the troopers, 
and had arrived at the serai just after the startled 
party had left it; had followed on their traces until 
he had lost his way. In despair he had been stumbling 
along aimlessly when Tumbu had suddenly appeared. 
Following his lead, he had struggled on, gradually 
benumbed by cold, until at last his feet had failed him, 
and he remembered no more. 

"Tumbu wanted Roy!" said little Prince Akbar 
gravely. "I told you he wanted something." 

And Tumbu, hearing his name, roused his furry 
head from his furry paws and looked at his young 
master with his sharp, beady, black eyes, as who 
should say: 

"Of course I did, because I knew you wanted him." 



108 



CHAPTER XII 

SNOW AND ICE 

THE Captain of the Escort was not over pleased to 
find Roy when he came in the next morning, and said 
curtly that the boy, having found his way on foot, 
must make it on foot, and that none should wait for 
him. To this the Rajput lad made no demur. His 
long limbs on that hilly country were more than an 
equal even for Horse-chestnut's climbing powers, and 
the cold was so intense that it was a relief not to sit 
still on horseback. So he raced on ahead with Tumbu 
or held by Horse-chestnut's stirrup, and, as he ran, 
told stories to amuse the Heir-to-Empire ; for neither 
of the nurses was in a fit state to do more than sit tight, 
tied by leathern belts to the troopers behind whom 
they rode. 

About sunset time they arrived at a lonely shed at 
the beginning of the highest bit of the main road, which 
they were now obliged to take, as there was no other 
way over the mountains ahead of them. Here, at the 
end as poor Head-nurse wailed of the habitable 
world, the Captain of the Escort had expected to find 
the remainder of his men; but they were not there, and 
as his provisions were running short, he could not go 
on till they did arrive. So, in an ill humor, he ordered 
a halt, and the whole outwearied party hastily cooked 

109 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

themselves a meagre supper and lay down in hot haste 
for rest at last. And rest they had, for that night 
the snow, which had been threatening, began to fall, 
and by daylight a good nine inches lay on the ground. 
The children, who had never seen such thick snow 
before, were delighted ; but Foster-father looked fear- 
fully at the passes before them, while the Captain of 
the Escort fumed and fretted at the non-arrival of 
his men. Unless they came soon, he said, if more snow 
fell, the pass immediately in front of them might be 
closed for days. Not that there seemed much likelihood 
of further storm, for the sky was blue as blue, the air, 
though keen, pleasant. About noon, there being still 
no sign of the missing men with provisions, the cap- 
tain became impatient, and told Foster-father curtly 
that he and his three troopers would ride back some 
fifteen miles to a village, where perchance the others 
were waiting, and that meanwhile the rest of them 
could wait till he returned; there were provisions 
enough for a day or two. Foster-father protested 
against being left alone in the snow with but a boy, 
two helpless women and two young children; but the 
Captain only laughed and rode off, taking with him 
Horse-chestnut, as a precaution, doubtless, against 
any attempt to escape with the Heir-to-Empire. 

There was nothing to be done, Foster-father felt, 
save to wait with what patience he could ; but his heart 
sank as, while Head-nurse and Foster-mother slept, 
110 



SNOW AND ICE 

outwearied by the past two days' fatigue, and the chil- 
dren under Roy's care played snowballs, he sat and 
watched the sky. At first there was only a cloud or 
two in the west; then a sudden wind sprang up and 
drove the fine, powdery snow in drifts. But still the 
sun shone, though it seemed to grow a little dimmer, 
a little paler; finally, about two hours after the others 
had left, Foster-father felt uncertain whether it was 
all drift that seemed to fill the air with a fine white 
film, or whether fresh snow was falling. 

An hour later there was no doubt about it. Great 
flakes were circling down silently, the sun had van- 
ished, all things had become grey. Head-nurse heaped 
up the fire, set a quilt before it for the children to 
play upon, and then opened out the wallets to see 
what she could find for supper. There was not much 
left, and she was about to knead up all the flour to 
bake hearth cakes when Foster-father crossed over 
to her and whispered: 

"Half will do, sister; otherwise there may be none 
for to-morrow." 

"None?" she echoed. "But they will be back -" 

Foster-father pointed to the snow that, driven now 
by a rising wind, had drifted underneath the door. 
"Not through that, sister! We may have to stay 
here till the weather moderates, for none save friends 
will risk their lives, and these men love us not!" 

But even as he spoke there was a bustling at the 

111 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

door, Tumbu flew forward, barking loudly, and in 
stumbled 

Old Faithful and Meroo the cook-boy! 

They were heavily burdened, half -blinded by the 
snow, and they had a disquieting tale to tell. About 
twelve miles back, just as the snow began to fall, their 
party, which had been delayed on the main road by 
a flooded river, had come upon the Captain of the 
Escort and his three troopers. Then had ensued a 
hurried consultation, in which several of the men had 
flatly refused to go on in face of the coming storm. 
It was, they said, sheer madness. Better return to 
the nearest township and await better weather. As 
for the prisoners, they had food enough to keep life 
in them for a day or two, and after that they must 
take their chance. Whereupon Old Faithful and 
Meroo had offered to go on, carrying some of the 
provisions they had with them, and trusting to be 
able to follow the tracks left by the horses in the 
snow. This had been agreed upon, and here they 
were! 

"For," as Old Faithful went on, "see you, I am not 

afraid of snow, having been with Babar the brave 

(on whom be peace) when he marched from Herat 

to Kabul and was nigh lost on the Great Zirrin 

pass." 

Little Akbar, who was playing at cat's cradle with 
his sister, looked up eagerly. "Was Grand-dad 
112 



SNOW AND ICE 

ever in the snow? 'Cos if he was, he's quite sure 
to help us, for he ate all our sweeties, didn't he, 
Bija?" 

The little girl shook her head and put her finger 
to her lip, in warning to him not to give away their 
secret; but Head-nurse was sharp. 

"Ohe," said she, "so that was it! Listen, Foster- 
father! these babes set the platter for Firdoos Gita 
Makani on whom be peace! Is not that good omen 
for us all?" 

"Mayhap!" said Foster-father, clearing his throat 
cautiously, "and my heart is comforted also by the 
presence of Faithful, who was with the great king 
in his battle with snow and ice." 

The Heir-to-Empire dropped his cat's cradle and 
went over to the old trooper and stood before him with 
grave, questioning eyes. 

"Is it so, slave? Were you with Grand-dad in the 
snow?" 

"Most-Honourable! I was," replied the old man 
boastfully, "and I remember as if 'twas yester- 
day " 

"Tell us the tale, trooper," interrupted Head-nurse. 
" 'Twill hearten us all up ere we sleep, since there is 
naught else to be done." 

"That will I, mother," replied Old Faithful with 
alacrity, "and in the very words of my revered master 
as written in that book of books, his Memoirs, which 

113 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

doubtless the most Learned-of-the-Universe will read 
some day." 

Mirak, who was back at his cat's cradle, looked up 
with grave superiority. 

"Nay, slave ! They shall read it to Akbar. He will 
be King." 

"Hark to him!" ejaculated Foster-mother, de- 
lighted. "His words are all fortunate." 

"We have need of more fortune by works, not 
words, woman," said Foster-father sternly. "So pro- 
ceed, friend Faithful; the recitation of brave deeds 



can never come amiss." 



Old Faithful settled himself by the fire and began. 
"First you must know that Firdoos Gita Makani, or 
Babar the brave, had to get back to Kabul, because 
wicked men were waiting to be punished. Now, it 
was winter time, and none dreamed of travelling over 
the passes at that season. But Firdoos Gita Makani 
was not one to hold back when a thing had to be done. 
So we started, and this is what happened, in his own 
words : 

"From the time we left Herat it snowed inces- 
santly; the farther we advanced the deeper it became. 
After three days it reached above the stirrups. In 
places the horses' feet did not reach the ground; yet 
the snow continued to fall. One Bishai was our guide. 
I do not know whether it was from old age, or from 
his heart failing him, but having once lost the road, 
114 



SNOW AND ICE 

he never could find it again; so, as it was not to be 
found with all our exertions, we were brought to a 
complete stand. Seeing no other remedy, we returned 
back to a place where there was abundance of fire- 
wood, and despatched sixty or seventy chosen men to 
retrace our footsteps and find on lower ground any 
people who might be wintering there, and bring back 
another guide. We halted thus for three or four days 
awaiting the return of our messengers ; but when they 
did appear it was without any one to show the way. 
Placing my reliance on God alone, therefore, I went 
on. For about a week we continued beating down the 
snow so as to form a road, only advancing two or three 
miles a day. Accompanied by ten or fifteen of my 
personal followers, I worked myself with the others. 
Every step we took forward we sank up to the middle, 
but still we went on, trampling till we got firm foot- 
hold. And as the first person wearied of the exertion, 
he stood back and another took his place. So, after a 
time, we managed to lead on a riderless horse. It 
generally sank to the stirrups, and after floundering 
on a dozen paces was worn out. But the second did 
better. Thus in this way the twenty or so of us man- 
aged to prepare a sort of road for the rest, who with 
hanging heads (though many of them had seemed 
our best men) advanced along it without even dis- 
mounting! But this was no time for reproof or au- 
thority. Every man of spirit hastens to such work 

115 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

of himself, and the rest do not count. In this way 
after three or four days we reached a cave at the foot 
of the Zirrin Pass. That day the wind and storm were 
dreadful ; the snow fell in quantities ; we all expected 
to meet death together. The snow was so deep, the 
path so narrow, the days were at shortest. The first 
of the troops reached the cave while it was yet day- 
light ; but some men had to wait for morning on horse- 
back. The cave seemed to be too small for all, so I 
would not go in. I felt that for me to be warm and 
comfortable while my men were in snow and drift; for 
me to sleep at my ease while my followers were in 
trouble and distress, would be unfair. I felt that 
whatever their sufferings might be, I ought to share 
them. So I took a hoe and dug down into the snow 
as deep as my breast ; this gave me some shelter from 
the wind, and I sat down in the hole. By bedtime 
prayers the snow had fallen so fast that four inches of 
it had settled on my head ' ' 

Here Old Faithful paused and shook his head 
gravely. "His Majesty," he went on, "writes in the 
margin, 'That night I caught a cold in my ear.' It 
is only wonder he did not catch his death." 

"But what happened next?" asked Akbar impa- 
tiently. "Did poor Grand-dad sit in the snow all 
night?" 

"No, Most-Honourable. He goes on to say, 'The 
cave was properly explored and found to be large 
116 



SJSTOW AND ICE 

enough to hold us all. So I ordered all to go in, and 
thus we escaped from the terrible cold, snow, and 
drift, into a wonderfully warm, safe, comfortable 
place. And next morning the snow and tempest 
ceased and we moved on, trampling down the snow as 
before; but ere we quite got through the pass, night 
fell. Though the wind had fallen, the cold was dread- 
ful, and several lost fingers, toes, even hands and feet 
from frostbite, as we waited for dawn in the open. As 
early as we could we moved down the glen, descend- 
ing, without road, over difficult and precipitous places, 
the extreme depth of the snow enabling us to pass over 
countless dangers. Thus our enemy became our 
friend. 

" 'It was evening prayer time ere we got from the 
mouth of the valley, bedtime prayers when we reached 
the village of Auleng. The people carried us to their 
warm houses, brought out fat sheep for us, a super- 
fluity of hay and grain for our horses, with abundance 
of wood to kindle our fires. To pass from the cold 
and snow into such a village with its warm houses, to 
find plenty of good food as we did after days of 
hunger is an enjoyment that can only be understood 
by those who have suffered similar hardship, have en- 
dured such heavy distress.' ' 

Old Faithful paused and sighed. "That is so like 
Firdoos Gita Makani," he said. "When danger was 
over he would sit down and write beautiful things 

117 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

about it; but when it was there he never seemed to 
think of anything but trampling it down/' 

"That is like all Kings," said Roy proudly, "and 
brave men are always Kings in danger." 

But Foster-father was looking at the fire. "Abun- 
dance of fuel," he murmured, "that is what we have 
not." 

"We shall not need it here, friend," replied the old 
trooper. "Meroo, remove that log; 'tis too hot as it 
is, and if the snow continues to drift as it was doing 
a while agone " he moved to the door, which opened 
inward and set it wide. A great white wall reaching 
almost to the eaves showed filling up the doorway! 
"It is as I thought," he said; "we are prisoned here 
till the storm passes. Thank God we have provision 
enough for some days." 

"And thanks to others also," put in Foster-father 
heartily; "but for thee and Meroo, old friend " 

"As Firdoos Gita Makani used to say," remarked 
the old man with an air of great virtue, " ' Gratitude 
comes when danger has gone/ so she must wait a bit 
yet." 



118 



CHAPTER XIII 

OVER THE PASS 

GRATITUDE had longer to wait than even Foster- 
father, who always took a gloomy view of things, had 
thought for, since the next morning found the shed 
almost hidden beneath a snowdrift. Still, as Old 
Faithful remarked, it was not altogether to be re- 
gretted since the covering kept out the cold and 
allowed them to save their small store of firewood for 
cooking. The lack of light was, however, terrible 
until Old Faithful, whose experience with Babar the 
brave made him full of expedients, hit on the plan 
of setting Tumbu to work to dig out a hole through 
the drift, for they had nothing with them to use as a 
spade. What he did was to set the door wide, cut a 
narrow tunnel with his sword as far as he could reach 
in the banked-up snow, and thrust a bit of food 
in its farther end. Then Roy brought Tumbu and 
said: 

"Fetch it out, good dog! fetch it out!" while Mirak 
and Bija looked on delightedly, calling, "Good dog! 
Dig it out! dig it out!" Tumbu, the most playful of 
animals, soon entered into the fun, and set to work 
shovelling out the snow till he found the food. Then 
another bit was thrust in, always in an upward di- 
rection. 

119 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

" Tis slow," said Old Faithful, "but not so slow as 
trampling down a road!" 

Not half so slow, for after a time Tumbu seemed 
to understand what they would be at, and needed no 
more bits of food to make him dig, but went on solidly, 
every now and again giving a yap just to make him- 
self believe he really was digging something out. In 
fact, he got on so fast that Roy, who, as the slim- 
mest of the party, had to keep the tunnel clear of 
the dug-out snow, had almost more to do than he 
could manage. It was frightfully exciting, and 
Mirak and Bija were dancing about, unable to 
keep still, when a sudden shaft of light that burst 
into the dark shed, and a furiously joyful barking 
that came down the funnel as if it had been a speak- 
ing trumpet, announced Tumbu's arrival in free 
air. 

"Now, we shall do," said Old Faithful with 
much importance. "Lo! how one clever idea be- 
gets another. But for Firdoos Gita Makani tramp- 
ling a road I should never have thought of a 
tunnel!" 

Roy, however, was already hard at work improving 
on the idea by widening the way with Old Faithful's 
sword, being only let from doing more by Head- 
nurse's exclamation that the melting snow would flood 
the shed. 

"Let be, boy!" said Foster-father; "the hot air from 
120 



OVER THE PASS 

within, rising through the tunnel, will melt the sides by 
degrees. To-morrow will see it large enough for you, 
at any rate, to pass through." 

And so it proved. Not next day, but the day after, 
not only Roy, but Mirak and Bija, had managed to 
climb up to the outer world by the notches which Roy 
cut in the snow walls. 

It was a strange, chill world which they saw. Far 
as the eye could reach, nothing but snow, the air frosty 
and sharp, though the sun was shining once more. 
Mirak was keen to snowball, but Roy would not hear 
of it ; the snow was melting with the faint heat of the 
midday sun, he said, and a step might make the frost 
film break, and down into the powdery drift they 
might go, never to come up again. So they only stood 
looking about them for a few minutes and then pre- 
pared to go back. 

"Take care, my lord, take care!" cried Roy, as 
Mirak, who was preparing to descend legs foremost, 
as he had been told to do, suddenly looked up with a 
face full of mischief, let go with his hands, and pouf ! 
disappeared down the slippery tunnel like a pea in a 
pea-shooter. A burst of laughter from below told 
them he had arrived safely, and nothing would suit 
Bija but to do likewise, Roy being still too tight a fit 
to slide quickly. In fact, the children were eager to 
climb up once more and do it again, but Head-nurse 
said she could not hear of it; their clothes were wet 

121 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

enough as it was ; besides, it was most unlady-like for 
a real Princess! 

The days, therefore, did not pass so uncomfortably, 
though pressing anxiety sat on Foster-father's honest 
face, and every time Roy returned from a climb up to 
outer air he would ask him if he had seen anything. 

"Nothing," Roy would reply, "and the snow wastes 
but little, we are so high up." 

At last one night, after the children were asleep, 
Foster-father summoned a council of war. It would 
not be wise, he said, to remain where they were, with- 
out making any effort at escape, until their provisions 
were exhausted. Then they would be helpless. Now 
they still had enough for two or three days, and it 
behooved them to make a push but whither? 

"Not back on our steps," advised Old Faithful. 
"Firdoos Gita Makani always said: 'No retreat till 
there is no advance.' Besides, see you, if we go down, 
the snow will be melting and give us no foothold. But 
at night the frost will hold on the pass. And it is 
but little farther to the next shelter; for, see you, I 
have come twice this way from Kandahar; but never 
the other way back. So my memory of land-marks if 
there be any would be nothing on the downward 
journey. But upward it might come to life. Again, 
upward there is less chance of missing the way, as all 
the valleys converge to the Pass, whereas downward 
they spread out in different directions." 
122 



OVER THE PASS 

In fact, there were so many points in favour of 
advance that the decision was made for it, and the next 
night settled on for the start. There were not many 
preparations to make except for the women, who had 
to bake what flour they had into hearth cakes. They 
had a little wheat and pulse, too, and this they roasted 
and tied up in the corners of their veils. Everything 
that was heavy had to be left behind, for they knew 
that even unburdened they might have difficulty in 
getting the frost film on the snow to bear their weight. 
It was a bright, starlight night when, the snow tunnel 
having been enlarged by Roy, regardless of flooding 
the shed, the whole party crept out and stood on the 
wide, snowy expanse. Tumbu was first, and with 
joyful yaps began to career about in circles curved 
like a comma, biting and snapping at the snow. Down 
came last, and meaowed piteously, lifting up first one 
cold foot, then another, and shaking it in disgust. 
Finally an idea seemed to come into her head; she 
made a bound toward Tumbu, and the next moment 
was on his back, clawing onto his fluffy black fur; 
whereat everybody laughed. So, with many a prayer 
for guidance, the little party set off, Old Faithful 
leading the way. At first they managed pretty well, 
though the men and women, being heavy, sank over 
the ankles at each step. But both Bija and Mirak, 
and even Roy, being light, found the surface hard 
enough to bear them ; so they ran on ahead and chattered 

123 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

and laughed, the whole business being to them a huge 
joke. Thus an hour passed cheerfully enough; then 
Bija began to get tired, and Foster-father took her in 
his arms. The result sent his heart into his mouth with 
sudden fear, sudden certainty that no help could come 
that way. Even her slight additional weight sent him 
almost waist deep into the snow. He could scarcely 
move ! And ere long the Heir-to-Empire would doubt- 
less weary also ; then what was to be done? For every 
hour after midnight would bring the thawing sun 
nearer and nearer ; they might have to remain on the 
Pass till night brought frost again, and in that case 
what would become of the children? 

Then suddenly his eye caught Tumbu, who was 
marching along sullenly, Down nestling, fast clawed 
in his broad, furry back. Could the dog carry a child? 
A creature with four feet had greater purchase of 
foothold than one with two. 

"Roy," he said, "turn the cat off and put the Heir- 
to-Empire on the dog's back; he must be tired also." 

Mirak, nothing loath, climbed quickly to his mount ; 
but ere he had settled himself on its back Tumbu had 
begun to sink slowly. The little lad's weight was too 
much for even four feet; there was a struggle, over 
went the little Prince, and both he and Tumbu had to 
be picked up and set on their legs again on a fresh, 
unbroken place. 

Foster-father looked in despair at Old Faithful, 
124 



OVER THE PASS 

and for a minute no one said anything. Then the old 
man's face lit up. "Lo ! I had forgotten it utterly, but 
the time and place bring memory back. Firdoos Gita 
Makani who knew all things under the sun had a 
favourite horse, that strained itself falling into a drift. 
They were for leaving it to die, but that did not suit 
Firdoos Gita Makani, who was kind to all God's 
creatures. So, having read of the like somewhere, he 
set us to make a sort of platform with our lances and 
blankets underneath the poor brute, and so we 
dragged him over the snow, until we reached a place 
where there was water and grass." 

"We have no lances," said Foster-father, "and there 
is no wood." He looked around helplessly. 

"My lord has a sword," put in Roy eagerly, "and 
so has Faithful. If he were to tie them crossways to 
the scabbards " He had already thrown off his skin 
coat and was unwinding his long muslin waistband to 
tear it into strips to use as a cord. 

"It is worth the trying, friend Foster-father," said 
Old Faithful, unbuckling his sword. 

"Aye!" continued Roy, elated with the idea, "and 
Tumbu can drag it. He makes no mark on the snow, 
so it will be smooth and slippy and the curved scab- 
bards will be like runners." 

His dexterous fingers were hard at work binding 
the long sword blades to place. Then a strip of woollen 
shawl was fastened to them as a seat, Meroo's turban 

125 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

served as harness, and in less time than could have 
been imagined the quaint sledge was ready for trial. 

Mirak sat on it first. "Now then, Tumbu! Good 
dog !" said Roy in a flutter for fear of failure. Tumbu 
turned round, looked at his little master with a broad 
grin of red tongue and white teeth, gave a little grunt, 
and started. 

The sledge slid on over the frozen snow quite easily ! 

"Now praise be to God!" cried Foster-father, over- 
joyed. 

"And Grand-dad !" said the little Prince, who always 
listened to everything; "but I knew he would help us, 
didn't you, Bija?" 

"But I want to go on the thing, too," she whim- 
pered. 

"Mayhap it might support them both," put in 
Head-nurse; "she is but a featherweight, and there is 
plenty of room." 

Ere five minutes were over the little party, greatly 
heartened up by finding this unexpected way out of 
their difficulties, started once more, Roy encouraging 
Tumbu, who, in truth, seemed to feel his task quite 
a light one, while Foster-father, in his relief and grati- 
tude, allowed Down, the cat, to creep once more inside 
his fur coat. Her weight made him sink a little farther 
into the snow, but he was strong, and felt he could 
have done more for the sake of the children's safety. 

On and on they went, the frost film giving firmer 
126 



OVER THE PASS 

foothold on the top of the pass, while the chill which 
always precedes dawn took away still more from the 
difficulty of Tumbu's task. In fact, the curved scab- 
bards slipped over the hard snow as if it had been ice. 

So they went on till a glimmer of dawn showed them 
that the summit had been reached, the downward slope 
begun. But still, far and near, nothing but snow was 
to be seen. Then suddenly, ahead of them, a shadow 
showed, a shambling shadow! Tumbu stopped dead, 
sniffed, then with a bound was off full tilt after it, the 
sledge, with the two children in it, flying behind him! 

For an instant the others were too much astonished 
to speak. Then Roy, with frantic cries to Tumbu to 
come back, was off after them. In vain! As he 
crested a little rise he saw by the growing light a big 
brown Isabelline bear shambling along contentedly, 
seeming to go no pace at all, yet gaining steadily on 
the sledge that was giving chase. 

"I will follow as fast as I can!" panted the Rajput 
lad breathlessly, as Foster-father, Meroo, and Old 
Faithful, hampered by their greater weight, ran up. 
"It is a bear; but they cannot catch it and Tumbu 
will tire then he always comes back. Follow you on 
my tracks with the women." 

With that he was off like an arrow from a bow be- 
hind the bear, Tumbu, the sledge, the Heir-to-Empire 
and the Princess Baksee Bani Begun, who by this time 
had all disappeared behind the hilly horizon. 

127 



CHAPTER XIV 

IN THE VALLEY 

ROY ran and ran and ran until he was breathless ; 
yet still he ran, until little by little he recovered his 
breath again as wild animals do. Every moment he 
hoped to see Tumbu either returning or standing still, 
panting and waiting for the others to come up. But 
he saw nothing save, stretching away as far as the eye 
could reach, a smooth, not over steep, snowy slope. 
So far there was little fear of the sledge being overset. 

Then, after he had run a long way, he paused, for 
there were now two tracks instead of one. The marks 
of the bear went up a little side valley, the marks 
of the sledge went down the slope. What could have 
happened? Had Tumbu in his haste missed the bear's 
trail? That was not likely. Having come so far, had 
he determined to go on? That was not likely either, 
unless the children had urged him forward. Knowing 
Mirak's bold, adventurous spirit, this seemed possible, 
and Roy's heart sank; but he started off running 
again, knowing that no matter what had happened he 
must follow his little master, and follow fast. 

But as he ran downward and downward the frost 
film on the snow became less and less firm. The sun 
was rising now, and even its earliest rays seemed to 
melt his foothold, and he began to sink at every step. 
128 



IN THE VALLEY 

The sledge, however, appeared from the faint marks 
it left to have slid on without difficulty. No doubt, he 
thought, because of the children's light weight, and be- 
cause the platform between the swords and scabbards 
which supported them was so large ; many times larger 
than his own feet! Why, even Tumbu's four broad, 
furry paws had sunk into the snow a little, and would 
doubtless have sunk more but for the pace at which he 
must have been going. 

The sledge was the thing! How clever it was of 
Old Faithful to remember Firdoos Gita Makani's 
way of saving his horse; but after all, when one came 
to think of it, the thanks were due to Babar the brave 
for being a real King, kind-hearted to animals. 

And now Roy's task became dangerous as well as 
hard, for every moment lessened the firmness of the 
ice film. And he was now running down a shallow 
valley, which was completely blocked up by drift, ex- 
cept in the very middle, where every now and again 
you got a glimpse of a roaring torrent kept unfrozen 
by its snowy covering hollowing its way downward; 
but for the most part it was invisible, the only sign 
of it being a roar, a tremble beneath your feet. Thus 
he was, as it were, on a snow bridge, of which the sur- 
face might at any moment give way. And that meant 
certain death in the dark pools below. In one place, 
indeed, he was all but lost ; however, a wild leap landed 
him on safe ground, and with a gasp of fear, not for 

129 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

himself, but for the children ahead of him, he ran on, 
comforted by the sight of the sledge track going on 
and on. 

After a while he had to cease running from sheer 
fatigue; but still he plodded on, telling himself that 
even half an hour would have made a difference in 
the snow. That where he found danger, the children 
might have found safety; and always before him that 
track of the scabbard-sledge showed him that so far, at 
any rate, all had gone well. 

And then, as he turned a sharp curve in the shallow, 
snow-covered valley, he saw a little below him some- 
thing that made him turn sick with fear. It was the 
sledge, empty, deserted! A second glance, however, 
showed him that it was not overset. Those who had 
been in it must have left it of their own accord ; and 
the cause of this was soon made clear. Within a few 
yards the snow ended and a rocky descent began, 
down which the sledge could not have gone. So either 
Tumbu or the children had been wise ; and they were 
still in front of him, but how far off who could tell? 
The sun was already high, hours must have passed 
since he first started in chase; but now that they were 
on foot there was some chance of overtaking them 
before anything dreadful happened. 

In his hurry Roy almost flung himself from rock 
to rock down the descent; but he had to pause to take 
off his fur coat, for in this sheltered spot the sun beat 
130 



IN THE VALLEY 

shadelessly, the snow melted as he passed, the stones 
ran with moisture, and in the crannies of the rocks 
young green things were everywhere starting into 
growth. The past storm of bitter cold had ended 
winter ; spring had begun. And now the rushing tor- 
rent, escaping finally from its snowy blanket, dashed 
over the boulders beside him, carrying with it great 
blocks of melting snow. 

On and on he went, thinking the descent would 
never end, till at a turn he saw below him a tiny val- 
ley, just a sort of cup in the hills, through which the 
stream rushed, sparkling in the sunshine. The banks 
were still brown, but they were patched with great 
beds of rose-pink primula, blue gentian, and yellow 
dog pansies. And on a perfect carpet of these sat three 
dark figures ! Never in his life was Roy so overjoyed. 
He forgot his fatigue, and ran on until he could plainly 
see Princess Bakshee Bani Begum making cowslip 
balls out of the pink primulas, the Heir-to-Empire 
contentedly munching a cold hearth cake, and giving 
bits of it to Tumbu, who, with his head cocked on 
one side, had evidently heard Roy's distant step. The 
next instant a furious barking showed that he was 
on the alert to defend his young charges, and Roy had 
to call to him again and again before he was satisfied 
that the newcomer was a friend. 

"Why, what a long time you've been coming," said 
the Heir-to-Empire calmly. "We've had our break- 

131 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

fast, 'cos we couldn't wait any longer. You can't have 
come as fast as you could. No more would Tumbu, 
only we made him not be lazy, 'cos Head-nurse says 
what is it she says, Bija?" 

The little girl looked solemn. "She says every one 
should do everything as quick as ever they can. So 
we shouted at Tumbu and pulled his tail just a liddly- 
wee bit like the bullock drivers do. And then we had the 
loveliest ride, and Tumbu wasn't a bit cross ; but he 
wouldn't go down the rocks and growled. So we had 
to get out and walk. And then we came here, and 
first of all we picked flowers ; then I had hearth cakes 
and popcorn in my veil, and so we ate our breakfast, 
and then you came and that's all, thank you!" She 
had just finished a lovely soft ball and she flung it full 
at the Heir-to-Empire. It hit him, but he took no 
notice. He was thinking of something else. 

"But where," he began, and his little lip went down, 
"is Head-nurse and Foster-father and Foster- 
mother and Old Faithful and Meroo and Down? 
What have you done with them, slave?" 

He was half angry, half ready to cry, so Roy, 
though his own heart failed him as he thought of the 
dangers of the road, had to soothe and comfort him 
by saying, as cheerfully as he could, that they would 
come before long. But would they? Now that the 
relief of finding the children were safe was over, poor 
Roy began to see the difficulties before him. If those 
132 



IN THE VALLEY 

others did not come, what would he, a mere lad, do? 
How could he care for his little master and mistress? 
They had had their breakfast, it is true Roy forgot 
he had had none himself! but what could they have 
for supper? He could not even think, he felt too 
giddy and tired even to sleep; so, after he had rolled 
his fur coat into a soft pillow for the little Prince and 
Princess, who were drowsy for their mid-day rest, and 
covered them over with their own, he sat with his head 
between his hands, his eyes closed, wishing he were 
not so stupid, wishing he could only think of some- 
thing to do ; for in reality he was quite wearied out. If 
the others did not come! Of course they might come 
at any moment; and yet the moments passed to min- 
utes, the minutes to hours, while the children slept in 
the sunshine, and Roy felt that he was a fool. 

And then something cold touched his hand. He 
opened his eyes and saw that it was Tumbu's nose; 
Tumbu, who had something strange in his mouth 
something like a rabbit and yet like a squirrel! 

In reality it was a fresh-killed young marmot, an 
animal that lives amid the snow and ice and rocks of 
the very highest hills. Tumbu, having handed over 
charge of the children, must have gone off on his own 
hunting, found a colony of the quaint creatures, and, 
as usual, brought home his bag! Roy did not in the 
least know what the marmot was, but he saw it was 
something to eat! The relief was too much for him! 

133 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Here, at least, was supper. He flung his arms round 
Tumbu's neck and burst into tears, murmuring with 
choking sobs that he, Roy, had been foolish, but 
Tumbu was a wise, wise, good doggie. And so he was t 

After this Roy felt better, and having, as all Indian 
boys used to have in those days, a flint and steel with 
him, began to look around for fuel with which to light 
a fire and cook the supper. There were, of course, no 
trees and no bushes ; but right away at the farther end 
of the long valley there were some patches of very 
dark green. They did not look promising, but he 
would go and see. They proved to be a creeping sort 
of evergreen plant that trailed its stiff branches right 
on the very ground. He picked a bit, and on trying to 
light it, found to his surprise, that it blazed up in a 
fierce flame. For it was juniper, and so full of resin. 

He now had the possibility of fire, so that evening 
the little cup in the hills held quite comfortable en- 
campment. 

Roy had brought down the sledge, and using the 
swords and their scabbards as supports, had made a 
lean-to tent against a warm rock out of the strip of 
shawl. In this he had strewn juniper branches to 
make a soft bed, and the children could just creep 
into it. Then they had the marmot, roasted in its skin, 
for supper, and all the three were too hungry to ask 
themselves if marmot flesh was as toothsome as rabbit 
or as bitter as squirrel! And Tumbu ate the bones 
134 



IN THE VALLEY 

with an air as if he would say, "It is not bad, but 
to-morrow I must catch two marmots." 

After that there was peace and quiet in the camp, 
Roy sitting beside the fire and making it blaze up 
every now and again by putting on a fresh juniper 
branch. For he knew that since the others had not 
arrived by daylight, they must either all have perished 
on the road or else be waiting until the cold of night 
once more froze the ice-film on the snow. In this case 
the firelight seen from afar might be a guide. 

So the night passed. More than once Roy fell 
asleep, for despite his care the smoke of the juniper 
branches could not quite be avoided, and that, every 
one knows, is terribly sleepifying. He woke every 
time, however, before the fire was quite out, and 
hastened to send up a flare of flame. As he did so the 
last time it was answered by a hulloo from the rocks 
above, and shortly afterward Meroo, the scullion's, 
blubbering voice could be heard as he uttered thanks 
to Heaven. 

"And the others?" asked Roy anxiously, as out of 
the darkness Meroo appeared and cast himself at the 
lad's feet, bellowing joy. 

"They come, they come! They are but a short way 
back. I saw the fire, and the sight of it warmed the 
cockles of my heart ! Lo ! I shall cook once more ! I 
shall not die hungry in the wilderness. Nay ! go not," 
for Roy was starting up. "True ! the women are nigh 

135 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

dead, and Foster-father hath his fingers frostbitten, 
but- nay, put more flame to the fire, boy! It is the 
fire they need!" 

He was half beside himself, but he was right. As 
the fresh juniper branches blazed up Head-nurse came 
tottering and stumbling into its light. Roy sprang to 
help her, but she pushed him aside. 

"The Heir-to-Empire?" she muttered, her lips 
almost refusing to form the words. "The Heir-to- 
Empire, the Admired-of-the- World " 

Roy pointed to the little tent. "There! Safe! 
Well! Asleep!" he cried; and the poor woman with 
a sob sank as she stood, and lay prone muttering long 
strings of titles. 

Before a minute had passed Foster-father and 
Foster-mother struggled into the circle of light, and 
after a word of question and reply, sank down also. 

Then there was a long pause, but no sign came of 
good Old Faithful's tall, gaunt figure. At last Roy 
spoke. 

"Faithful?" he asked in a low whisper. "What of 
him?" 

There was no answer at first; only Foster-father 
covered his face with his hands. At last he spoke 
gently. 

"He was faithful to death. He was going first, as 
ever, cheering us all with his sayings of Firdoos Gita 
Makani. I saw him there one moment turning to tell 
136 



IN THE VALLEY 

us words of wisdom the next the snow bridge had 
given way beneath his feet and he was gone. We 
waited on the bank of the awful chasm for a long time, 
but there was no sound save the roaring of the stream 
below. Firdoos Gita Makani, his master, had called 
him. Peace be with them both!" 



137 



CHAPTER XV 

DEAREST-LADY 

FOR two whole days the little party was too weary 
even to attempt a move. They had some provisions 
with them, and Tumbu, as good as his word, brought 
in more and more marmots ; for being unaccustomed 
to dogs, they were easily caught. 

The death of Old Faithful weighed upon the spirits 
of all, and for the first twelve hours or so the Heir-to- 
Empire was inconsolable for the loss of his beloved 
cat; for Foster-father had found it impossible to carry 
Down farther, and she had remained behind in the 
snow, protesting piteously. It was a terrible grief, 
and the child had almost wept himself sick, when, to 
every one's surprise and delight, Mistress Down was 
seen walking sedately across the flowers, her bushy 
tail carried very high, not one hair of her silky white 
coat awry. She took no notice of anybody, but passed 
to the fire, sat down beside it with stiff dignity, curled 
her tail round her paws, yawned and then began to 
purr gently. It was as if nothing had happened. And 
she certainly was not hungry, for she turned up her 
dainty nose at Tumbu's marmot bones. 

"Cats," said Head-nurse, who had just awakened 
from a long sleep of many hours, "are not to be 
counted as other beasts. Having nine lives, they could 
138 



DEAREST-LADY 

afford to lose one ; but they never do. They always 
fall on their feet. It is the way of the world ; the more 
you have the more you get. Still, I am glad she has 
returned; and I wish there were a chance of others 
turning up also," she added with a sigh. 

The Heir-to-Empire looked up gravely. "But 
Faithful can't come back, you know. He went to help 
Grand-dad to help us." 

"Hark to the innocent," cried Foster-mother, half 
in smiles, half in tears, "but it is true. If ever poor 
mortals were watched over by saints in Paradise, we 
were ; and for my part if ever I get to Kabul, my duty 
shall be paid to the tomb of Firdoos Gita Makani 
on whom be peace." 

"Amen!" added her husband devoutly; "but for 
the memory of that good man we should not be here 



now." 



It was on the third day that leaving Meroo in 
charge for a few hours Foster-father and Roy set off 
to explore. They were fortunate in finding some 
shepherds' huts within a walking distance for even 
footsore women, and returned ere nightfall with a 
skin bag of fresh milk. 

Early next morning, therefore, they all set off, 
Roy girding on dead Faithful's sword from the sledge 
that was wanted no more, and from that moment feel- 
ing himself indeed body-guard to the Heir-to- 
Empire. 

139 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

. Once they had reached safety from starvation in the 
shepherds' huts, a great desire for rest came upon 
them all; and for three whole days they did nothing 
but eat, and sleep, and rejoice in the early spring sun- 
shine, and the early spring flowers. For the late snap 
of extreme cold had passed and every green thing was 
hurrying to be ahead of its neighbour. Bija made 
endless cowslip balls out of the beautiful rose-pink 
primulas, while Roy and Mirak, following the shep- 
herds' boys, came back with their hands full of young 
rhubarb shoots and green fern croziers, which they 
ate like asparagus. But this sort of thing could not 
last long, since they were close to the caravan route 
from Kandahar to Kabul ; and sure enough, no sooner 
had the snow on the uplands melted than travellers 
began to pass through. 

Thus news that the little party had escaped death 
soon filtered from mouth to mouth, till it reached the 
Captain of the Escort, and ere long Foster-father 
found himself and those in his care once more semi- 
prisoners on their way to cruel brother Kumran; all 
the more cruel, doubtless, because King Hamayon had 
already begun the siege of Kandahar, believing his 
little son to be still within its walls. 

Now Kumran was a far cleverer fellow than his 
brother Askurry; but there was in him a love of de- 
ceit for deceit's sake, which spoiled all his cleverness, 
for it made him uncertain what he would do in the 
140 



DEAREST-LADY 

end. This indeed is always the case with deceitful 
people. They know that what they say and do is not 
straightforward and true, and so they are like sailors 
without a compass. They have no fixed pole by which 
to steer. 

And, in addition, Kumran liked to be considered 
clever; so he was always outwardly very courteous, 
very polite, very charming; but what he was within 
none could say for long. 

Thus Foster-father's heart sank within him, when 
in the distance, down the rocky ravine through which 
the Kabul River dashes, and along which the caravan 
road took its high-perched way, he saw the battle- 
mented wall of the city, cresting the low hills on which 
the town was built. It was a fully fortified town 
through which the river ran, and at its extreme end, 
commanding the wider plain below, stood the citadel 
called the Bala Hissar or High Fort. To reach this 
the travellers had to cross the iron bridge and wend 
their way through the narrow bazaars. 

Such wonderful bazaars as they were, too! 
Crowded with tiny dark arched shops, like caverns, 
full to the brim with Persian silk carpets, furs from 
the north, turquoises and all kinds of precious stones 
from out-of-the-way places with unpronounceable 
names. And there were such a quantity of cats ! Grey 
Persian cats and white ones, and tabbies and black 
cats who sat on the balconies and stared at Down as 

141 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

she lay on Horse-chestnut's broad, wavy back. For 
the Captain of the Escort had found out what an ex- 
cellent creature the old pony was, and had brought it 
along with him. 

The High Fort was a huge place with great gar- 
dens within its battlements and several separate pal- 
aces. Here, to Foster-father's unbounded delight, 
they found that Prince Kumran was himself away, 
having gone out with a small body of men to the Kan- 
dahar frontier, where King Humayon's arrival had 
aroused loyalty. But what was still more cheering 
was the news that he had left orders for the Heir-to- 
Empire and his sister to be handed over on arrival to 
the charge of Dearest-Lady! Foster-father could 
hardly believe his ears; for Dearest-Lady (as she was 
always called by all her family, by all her nephews 
and nieces, by all her grand nephews and nieces, and 
cousins, and every one who was lucky enough to be- 
long to her) was simply Well! what was she not? 
Wise, and gentle, and good, and clever all this and 
more. She was the sort of Dearest-Lady who lived 
so long in the hearts of those who knew her, that, years 
after she was dead they would say, if there was any 
difficult point to be settled "We wonder what Dear- 
est-Lady would have said?" 

She was old, of course, for she was Babar the 
Brave's elder sister; the sister to whom he had been 
devoted, who had always been to him also "his Dear- 
142 



DEAREST-LADY 

est-One." Now, when you come to think of it, boys 
and girls, that is a nice sort of fame to have to re- 
main for let me see how many hundred years? 
nearly four Dearest-Lady, or Dearest-Gentleman to 
all the world. 

This Dearest-Lady was, of course, the Heir-to- 
Empire's grand-aunt, and the mere sound of her name 
was enough to calm Foster-father's fears. Even 
Head-nurse, though she sniffed a little and said she 
had heard tell that the Khanzada Khanum was a trifle 
careless of ceremonials, was satisfied. There was no 
doubt that she was the Highest-Born-in-the-Land. 

As for little Prince Akbar himself, he only opened 
his big, grave eyes widely when the tall white figure 
clasped him closely in its arms and kissed his hair 
softly. 

"So like his grandfather," she murmured, "so like! 
so like! the very hands, the very feet so strong, so 
shapely." And both in turn felt the touch of the soft 
old lips. "And thou, too, small maiden," she con- 
tinued kindly, "welcome to one who has never yet let 
it be said in her hearing that God made women weaker 
than man! Thou shalt learn here to be proud thou 
wast born a girl. And you also, Nurse! Bring cool- 
ing sherbets, slaves, while she tells me all that has hap- 
pened." 

Then she sat and listened while Head-nurse told 
the tale of what had happened, and her faded, gay, 

143 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

old face flashed and sparkled and grew grave by 
turns. 

"But where is Tumbu?" she interrupted, "and 
where is Down? Bring them hither, slaves! Lo! I 
love all animals, as my dear brother did!" 

And she laughed over their doings, and wept over 
Old Faithful's death, while Bija and Mirak sat cud- 
dled up close beside her, listening also and enjoying 
the tale of their own adventures as if they had hap- 
pened to other children! 

"Surely," she said softly when Head-nurse ended, 
"my dearest brother on whom be peace must have 
protected them ! Lo ! Mirak ! and Bija for I shall 
call you naught else since they are sweet kindly names, 
better than fine sounding titles this very afternoon 
ye shall come with me to the garden he loved, and 
where his earthly form lies at rest, and lay flowers on 
his grave for thanks. Since he loved flowers as he 
loved everything." 

So that evening, about an hour before sunset time, 
they were all carried in litters to the Garden of the 
New Year, about a mile beyond the city. It was a 
most peaceful, lovely spot, right up on the hillside with 
a splendid view from it of valley and mountain and 
river. A fresh bubbling spring ran through it, and 
beneath the Judas trees, whose leafless branches were 
flushed with pink blossoms, stretched great carpets of 
spring flowers. 
144 



DEAREST-LADY 

"Pluck him yonder tulips, Mirak," said Dearest- 
Lady with a smile. "He loved to count their kinds 
and those as he wrote are 'yellow, double, and 
scented like a rose' !" 

And the boy who was to grow to be a greater man 
even than his grandfather, though he could scarcely 
be a more lovable one, plucked a posy of the tulips 
and laid them on the plain marble slab which bore 
nothing but the words, "Heaven is the eternal home 
of the Emperor Babar." And when Bija, with many 
a little feminine ceremonial, had deposited her nose- 
gay of sweet violets, and Head-nurse and Foster- 
mother had offered up their respects, they all went 
and sat down on a grassy spot, and Dearest-Lady, 
who was always full of youthful curiosities concerning 
all things, began to question Roy, who as a mere lad 
had been allowed to come with them, as to what he 
could remember of the time before he was picked up 
in the desert. 

"Hold my hand, child, and think," she said at last, 
"mayhap it may come to thee then. The touch of 
kinship has power, and if I do not mistake me, there 
is that in thy blood that is in mine royalty!" 

So she clasped Roy's slim long-fingered hand and 
held it tight, and the boy's face changed, his eyes grew 
startled, he shivered slightly. 

"Yea!" he said, "now I do remember. Mother was 
like you, and she told me I had the mark of Kingship 

145 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

strong enough, for all the rebels might say " As 
he spoke, he drew down his loose garments, and there 
upon the clear olive of his breast, just above the heart, 
showed a small dark stain. 

Dearest-Lady bent close to look at it. "What is't ?" 
she asked. 

"Mother said it was the sign of uttermost truth, and 
that we all had it," he replied, speaking dreamily. 

"But who were we?" persisted Dearest-Lady, her 
kind eyes on the lad's. 

Just at that moment, however, Tumbu, who had, of 
course, accompanied them, burst out with a series of 
shrill, short barks, and Roy was on his feet in a sec- 
ond, his hand on Old Faithful's sword, lest any new- 
comer might bring danger to his little master. But 
as it turned out Tumbu was only excited by a water- 
rat! All the same the interruption prevented Dearest- 
Lady's question from being answered, for the spell 
was broken. 

"Yea! thou wilt be true to the very uttermost, of 
that I am sure," said Dearest-Lady, half pleased, half 
amused at the young Rajput's quick leap to arms, 
"and so long as I have charge of the Heir-to-Empire 
thou shalt be his esquire. So go call the litter-men, 
boy, it is time we returned. I must remember I am 
gaoler as well as grand-aunt." 



146 



CHAPTER XVI 

CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN 

IF Dearest-Lady was in truth a gaoler, she was a 
very kind one, and her prison the pleasantest prison 
in the world. It would take too long to tell how 
happily the next four months passed, not only for the 
two children, but for Roy and Foster-father, Head- 
nurse and Foster-mother. Even misshapen Meroo, in 
the kitchen, felt the better for helping to cook the 
Khanzada Khanum's dinner. For that was one of 
Dearest-Lady's virtues, she always made people feel 
contented, and as if they were doing the right thing. 
So even Prince Kumran, when he returned to Kabul, 
though he frowned at the big, bold, frank-faced boy 
who claimed to be the Heir-to-an-Empire which his 
own fingers itched to have, did not feel inclined to 
interfere with his aunt. The truth being that, like 
the rest of the family, he loved and trusted her be- 
yond measure; perhaps more than did any of his 
brothers, since she had brought him up as a child. And 
she, in her turn, though she knew his faults, though 
she not only bewailed them, but resented them, at 
times most fiercely, could not forget that he had been 
her nursling, could not forget, above all, that he was 
her dear brother Babar's son. 

Thus all went smoothly in the Bala Hissar, where 

147 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

young Prince Akbar, now close on three years old, 
looked and talked and acted like one of six. This 
same strength of his was always getting him into 
scrapes with people who did not believe he was so 
young, or, knowing him to be so young, did not be- 
lieve him to be so strong! 

He played a similar trick to the one he had played 
on cousin Yakoob at Kandahar on his big cousin Ibra- 
him, Prince Kumran's son. It was about a fine kettle- 
drum all tasselled in royal fashion, with gold and 
silver, that Ibrahim's father had given him. Being a 
selfish boy, he would not allow Akbar to touch it; 
whereupon the Heir-to-Empire, after a brief tussle, 
carried off the kettledrum and beat it loudly through 
the palace! 

Kumran hearing of this was very angry, for the 
beating of a kettledrum is a sign of Empire. 

"Keep that young fighting cock of thine in better 
order, madam," he said to his aunt, "or I shall have to 
find him a sterner gaoler." 

Whereupon she flashed out and told him fairly that 
short of killing the child, and for that crime even lie 
was not prepared, there was no way of preventing the 
Heir-to-Empire from being what he was, a born king. 
That was her way of quelling Kumran. By boldly 
setting aside the thought of murder as impossible, she 
hoped to make it so; but she was not sure, and after 
this she kept Mirak and Bija under control. 
148 



CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN 

It was not much good, however, when just as 
autumn was coming on news arrived from Kandahar 
that Humayon had at last succeeded in taking the city, 
and, disappointed in not finding his son in the palace, 
was preparing to march on Kabul. 

Then the worst side of Prince Kumran showed it- 
self at once. Like all deceitful people, he was a cow- 
ard at heart, and cowardice made him think of im- 
mediate revenge upon his victorious brother. Of what 
use would even two victories be to him if the Heir-to- 
Empire was beyond recall? 

So Kumran's charming polished manner vanished 
in an instant, and one day, without any warning, little 
Mirak, playing in the garden, was kidnapped by two 
stalwart Abyssinian slaves and carried off, howling 
horribly and fighting with his fists, to the palace where 
Kumran's wife lived. Tumbu, who was with him at 
the time, made a gallant show of resistance, and actu- 
ally bit one of the kidnapper's calves to the bone ; but 
when he found himself confronted with a whole regi- 
ment of armed men who ran out to their assistance, he 
gave up the hopeless fight, and flew off to tell Roy 
what had happened. And Roy, missing his little mas- 
ter, fled to tell Dearest-Lady. Her face paled, but 
she did not hesitate. 

"My litter! page!" she cried, and drawing her white 
veil closer round her, she went straight to the audi- 
ence hall, where Kumran was receiving his nobles ; her 

149 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

great age, her great nobility, giving her a right, even 
as a woman, to appear amongst them. 

All eyes turned to her tall, upright, slim fig- 
ure, every ear thrilled to the tones of her clear 
voice. 

"By what right," she asked, "has Kumran, the 
nephew I have nurtured, stolen from my care the son 
of his elder brother, the Heir to that Empire which 
Babar the Brave gave, dying, into the hands of 
Humayon, his eldest son ? I say there can be no right ; 
and if it be wrong then will God's curse light on the 
man who undoes his father's work. Lo ! he is worse 
than parricide, for he would kill that for which his 
father gave his life." 

Now this appeal was a very strong one; for the 
story of how Babar the Brave gave up his own life 
to save that of his darling son, Humayon, is one of 
the most touching tales in Indian history, and none of 
Babar 's immediate family could even think of it with- 
out strong emotion. So it was Kumran's turn to grow 
pale. 

"August lady," he replied, evading her question, 
"this is a matter of policy with which women have 
naught to do. King Humayon hath taken Kandahar, 
he hath imprisoned and degraded his brother Askurry, 
and for this, I, Kumran, challenge him!" 

"And wherefore?" asked Dearest-Lady boldly. 
"Did not Askurry deserve it? Nay! did he not de- 
150 



CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN 

serve death? Did he not steal the King-of -Empire? 
Did he not defy the king? Did he not send the Heir- 
to-Empire away, instead of returning him to his 
father's keeping? I tell you, nephew Kumran, that 
your father, Babar the Brave, Babar the Kindly, 
Babar the Generous, Babar the Just, whom all men 
loved for his mercy, would have given death for such 
faults and given it rightly. And will you, like a 
fool, court death also?" She looked round the as- 
sembly to see many a sullen, suspicious face, and un- 
derstood that danger lay close at hand. So her resolu- 
tion was taken in a moment. "See you!" she went on, 
"nothing has been done yet to make forgiveness im- 
possible. Well! I Khanzada Khanum, old as I 
am, will go forth to meet King Humayon and plead 
thy cause. I will ask what boon you wish, and I 
promise it shall be yours. Humayon will give much 
in exchange for his son, and none have ever denied me 
anything. Shall it be so?" Then seeing hesitation 
she put in a crafty word: "There will be time after- 
wards for anything " 

Kamran looked round his nobles, then into his own 
heart. What he saw there was such a tissue of lies 
and deceit that he could find no clear decision; so, as 
usual, he temporised. "It is worth a trial," he mur- 
mured. "I might ask for much." 

"Ask for all and everything," said Dearest-Lady, 
who felt she had gained her point; "I make but one 

151 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

condition. The child must remain unharmed until I 
return." 

Again Kumran hesitated. Again he looked in his 
own heart. Again he found no clear cause for de- 
cision there; so he said doubtfully: 

"Until you return?" 

"Nay! swear it," came the high, insistent voice. 
"Say before them all, 'By the memory of my dear 
father no harm shall come to the child ere you re- 
turn.' " 

Half unwillingly Kumran repeated the words and 
Dearest-Lady gave a sigh of relief. She had gained 
her point. But now that she had to face the conse- 
quences of her offer to go forth and meet Humayon 
her heart sank within her; for she was very old and not 
over strong. The journey was long; winter was com- 
ing on fast. Still it had to be done, and at once. For 
Kumran's promise of safety to the Heir-to-Empire 
was only during Tier absence, and who knew whether 
his craft might not claim freedom to do as he chose 
ere she started! 

So shemade her arrangements for that very even- 
ing, and she had much to do. To begin with she must 
see the Heir-to-Empire the very last thing, and make 
certain that he was well cared for. Then she had to 
arrange for the safety and comfort of Head-nurse, 
Foster-mother and little Bija, for it was unlikely they 
would be allowed to be with the little Prince. He 
152 



CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN 

must, however, have some one with him to whom the 
child was accustomed, and Roy, being still quite a 
lad, might not be considered dangerous. Then his 
gift of story-telling might make the ladies in the 
women's apartments more inclined to have him. 
Anyhow she must try her best to secure his stopping 
with his young master, and to this end she ordered him 
some fine clothes and gave him a finely bedizened lute; 
for since he came to Kabul they had found out that he 
could play the vina beautifully. 

Thus just before sunsetting, leaving poor Head- 
nurse and Foster-mother in floods of tears, while poor 
little Bija was sobbing her very heart out, and good 
dog Tumbu was slowly wagging his tail as his eyes 
asked sorrowfully if he might not come, too, she 
started on her journey, going round by the Chief 
Palace on her way. 

Now, Dearest-Lady's visits were considered to be an 
honour, so she had no difficulty in gaining admittance. 
And once inside the women's apartments she simply 
turned to the first attendant and said curtly that she 
had come to see the Heir-to-Empire and say farewell 
to him ; therefore he must either be brought to her or 
she must go to him. Boldness succeeded, as it always 
does, and she was shown into a room where she found 
little Prince Akbar playing contentedly with Down 
the cat, who was running about after a ball like a 
young kitten. She stopped when she saw Dearest- 

153 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Lady, and giving an apologetic miaow, as who should 
say, "I was obliged to amuse him somehow," settled 
herself down on the rug and began as usual to purr. 
Of course Mirak forgot all about her in his joy at 
seeing Dearest-Lady and Roy, and it was some time 
before the former could ask the attendant how the cat 
had managed to get there. 

"Highness," said the woman, "it is impossible to 
keep cats out if they want to come in. She appeared 
at the window three times, and three times I put her 
downstairs. Then I gave in. It is no use quarrelling 
with cats." 

Meanwhile notice of Her Highness Dearest-Lady's 
arrival had reached Kumran's wife and she hastened 
to little Akbar's prison room. But once more Dearest- 
Lady was bold and took the first word. 

"I came to bid the boy farewell, content to trust 
him to thy kind care, my niece," she said; "and also 
to leave with him this Rajput singer, who has the art 
of amusing the child and other folk also. Roy! sing 
us one of thy tales, that the Princess may hear thee." 

And Roy, knowing his part, sang as he had never 
sung before. "I will sing of how the palm squirrels 
helped the Great Ram to find his wife, Sita the Peer- 
less, whom the wicked Giant Ravana had carried off. 
We sing it to the squirrels when we feed them in our 
country. Perhaps Her Highness does not know what 
a palm squirrel is. It is tiny, tiny, no bigger than a 
154 



CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN 

rat, but it has a bushy tail and four dark stripes like 
finger marks down its goldy-coloured back. And it 
never does anything but play, is never anything but 
happy; and this is why": 

Then he smote the strings of the vina till they 
thrilled again, and began, his high voice warbling and 
carolling like a summer bird. 



"Pretty ! Pretty ! Pretty ! are you there, my sweet, 
In your leafy seat, where the branches meet? 
Wasting all the sunny hours 
Pulling down the mango flowers 
With your dainty feet. 

"Pretty, prettiest thing yawning as you lie 
Watching with glad eye, busy life go by. 
Not the tiniest sense of duty 
In your careless days, my beauty, 
'Neath the cloudless sky. 

"Happiest, merriest ways, 
Knowing no gainsays, so the story says, 
Since the Great Ram loved and blessed you, 
With his care-worn hand caressed you, 
In the olden days. 

"Then, when he was seeking Sita, peerless maid, 
By his foes dismayed, Ram, her lover, bade 
All the beasts and birds and fishes 
Leave their play to do his wishes, 
Fight to give him aid. 

155 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

"And the golden squirrel sprang at his behest, 
Nestled to his breast, first to join the quest. 
But Great Ram's grave eyes grew tender, 
Smiled upon the warrior slender, 
Braver than the rest ! 

" 'Nay ! thou art too pretty ! fearless little heart, 
Thou should'st have no part in Strife's bitter art; 
Live to show man, worn and weary, 
One blythe soul for ever cheery, 
Free from sorrow's smart/ 

"Laid his kind hand softly on its golden hair, 
So palm squirrels bear, where Ram's fingers were, 
Four dark shadows on them, showing 
Gladdest life must lose its glowing 
From the touch of care. 

"So the squirrels' birthright is to want for naught, 
Have no grief or thought, know not 'must' or 'ought.' 
Yet upon their gold there lingers 
Shades of care, that Great Ram's fingers 
For their blessing wrought." 

ff Wdh! Wahl" cried the Queen, delighted. "He 
can stop if he likes." 

Ten minutes after Roy had finished his song Dear- 
est-Lady's litter paused for a moment on a high- 
perched corner of the road towards Kandahar, to give 
her a last look of the fair city of Kabul. Her bright 
old face was bright still, undimmed by care. She was 
old and frail, she was going a wearisome, trying jour- 
156 



CRUEL BROTHER KUMRAN 

ney ; yet, for the present, she knew that she had saved 
the Heir-to-Empire's life. That at any rate was se- 
cure until she returned and she might never return ! 
The thought made her smile. "Forward, slaves!" she 
cried cheerfully, and Kabul, the city she loved so well, 
was left behind without one regret. 

And she was right. She had saved the Heir-to- 
Empire's life; for at that very minute the door of 
little Prince Akbar's room opened wide, and Roy 
starting up found himself face to face with cruel 
Uncle Kumran followed by two men with drawn 
swords. And, alas for Roy ! he had no sword to draw, 
for Old Faithful's sabre did not fit the disguise of a 
Rajput bard. Despite that, he stepped forward 
boldly, though his heart beat to suffocation. For 
Kumran's face was cruel indeed. 

Still, for one second, the latter's attention was dis- 
tracted. He had wanted no witnesses to what he 
meant to do. 

"How earnest thou hither, slave?" he asked fiercely. 

And Roy gave him back the simple truth, no more, 
no less ; but it was sufficient. 

"Her Highness Khanzada Khanum brought me 
hither to be with the Heir-to-Empire ere she left at 
sunset." 

Kamran started back. "Left? Hath she left al- 
ready?" he asked, his face paling. So he stood for a 
moment irresolute, the words of his own oath pealing 

157 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

through his brain, "By the memory of my father I 
promise." That was not one which any son of Babar's 
was ever likely to break. "Sheath your swords, 
fools!" he said at last bitterly; "they are not needed. 
I am not the first man who has been outwitted by a 



woman." 



158 



CHAPTER XVII 

IMPRISONMENT 

BUT if Kumran was let and hindered by his oath 
from actually killing the Heir-to-Empire in cold 
blood, or, in lesser degree, from treating him so harshly 
that he might die, he did not feel so bound towards the 
others; and being cruel by nature, he set to work upon 
them at once. Foster-father he sent to the State 
prison, which was down a well in the big courtyard. 
There were two of these prison-wells, in which the 
water was reached by a flight of steep steps, and where 
dark, underground cells opened on to the deep silent 
pool. They were terribly damp, but here poor Foster- 
father had to drag out long, miserable days, cut off 
even from news of the others. Until one day, just 
when the sentry was eating his mid-day meal, he heard 
a violent barking, and by swinging himself up by the 
bars of the tiny shaft of the well he could just get a 
glimpse of Tumbu on the steps. Why had he come? 
Perhaps he had been sent ; if so he would come again 
at the same time. All that night Foster-father lay 
awake, feverishly wondering what Tumbu had meant, 
and all the next morning, having no means of telling 
the time, he waited and waited anxiously, until, just 
as he was beginning to give up hope, the familiar bark 
echoed down the well, and there was good old Tumbu 

159 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

on the steps ! So he must have been sent by some one ; 
and therefore some one must be alive and desire him 
to know the fact. 

In truth, both his wife, Foster-mother, and Head- 
nurse had been racking their brains how to find out 
where either the Heir-to-Empire or Foster-father 
were imprisoned until little Bija had said, "Tell 
Tumbu to seek for them. If you show him Mirak's 
cap and say, 'Go seek,' he will go." 

And so he did ; but it was a long, long time before 
he found out where Mirak had hidden himself, for he 
had gone to the big palace in a litter, and so had left 
no trace. Then little Bija came to the rescue once 
more. 

"You say, Foster-mother, that you feel sure that 
Down must have gone away to keep Mirak company. 
Now she can't be prisoned, 'cos cats won't be caught 
unless they want to be caught, and she doesn't want 
to be, of course. So she must be going about, so why 
don't you tell Tumbu to seek for Down; then we 
should find where Mirak was." 

"But we haven't got anything of Down's to show 
him," argued Foster-mother. And that was a 
puzzler. 

At last Head-nurse said, "I believe all cats have 
the same smell, else why do all dogs go after all cats? 
At any rate, it would be worth trying." 

So they got a fine, large, handsome white cat in the 
160 



IMPRISONMENT 

bazaar, and said to Tumbu, "Go seek!" And then 
there was the most awful scrimmage that ever was 
seen. Tumbu was after the cat in a second, and the 
cat jumped for protection on Head-nurse, and Head- 
nurse howled, while Tumbu deafened everybody by 
yowls ; for the cat had caught him on the nose ! Peace 
was not restored till pussy had made her escape back 
to the bazaar through the window. 

"That was not a success," sighed poor Head-nurse 
as she put herself tidy; but after all it was not such a 
failure, since, either from putting two and two to- 
gether, or by mere chance, Tumbu appeared the very 
next day barking and frolicking after his usual fash- 
ion when he wanted them to go out, and then led them 
straight to a lonely corner of the palace garden, 
whence, looking upwards, they could plainly see Down 
seated on a narrow window sill. And the next 
moment, hearing the familiar bark, who should pop 
his head out of the window but Roy ! 

"All's well," he whispered rapidly seeing them be- 
low him ; then withdrew his head swiftly. For he had 
determined never by anything or in any way to risk 
being sent away from the little Heir-to-Empire. 

But the others were more than satisfied with the 
whisper. 

"Now," said little Bija, who was beginning to man- 
age her nurses, "Tumbu must find Foster-father and 
tell him" And this, we have seen, he did. 

161 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Even so, with the daily content of knowing that all 
were at least safe, the time passed with deadly slow- 
ness, for the days grew to weeks, the weeks to months, 
bringing no change. Denied, as he was, the outdoor 
life, the fresh air to which he had been accustomed, 
little Prince Akbar grew pale and thin. But his 
spirits did not flag, and he would laugh over the tale 
of how Rajah Rasalu swung the Seventy Maidens as 
heartily as ever, though sometimes his little lip would 
go down and he would say, "If Bija were only here 
I'd never ask her to tumble down. I would go on 
swinging till she wanted me to stop." 

So the winter came on, but still Dearest-Lady did 
not return. A letter had come from her saying she 
had reached Kandahar in safety that she was stay- 
ing in the Kar Garden outside the town which her 
father had planted that King Humayon was not 
angry that he had already forgiven Prince Askurry 
that Kumran had nothing to fear if he only kept 
to his promise. 

The prisoners, of course, knew nothing of this let- 
ter, but the effect of it showed in a greater freedom. 
Foster-father was moved to a more comfortable 
dungeon and Bija, Head-nurse and Foster-mother 
were allowed to go and see the Heir-to-Empire. 
Their delight may be imagined, and even Tumbu 
shared in the joy, for, when he was refused admittance 
and left down below, he dashed up the stairs, evading 
162 



. IMPRISONMENT 

the sentries and barked furiously at the door to be let 
in. And the meeting between him and Mirak was so 
pretty that the sentry had not the heart to insist on 
poor doggie going down again. And this, in its way, 
was a good thing, for it was the beginning of a sort 
of friendship between the young Prince and this par- 
ticular Afghan sentry. Sometimes, after he had been 
relieved, he would come up to the little captive's room 
for a bit, and listen to Roy's stories, or tell a few in 
his turn; for he had wandered about, over half India, 
giving the use of his sword to any one who would pay 
him well for it. 

"Lo! I have not heard that tale since I was in 
Rajputana!" he said one day after Roy had been sing- 
ing an old-world legend of fighting days. "It was an 
old Brahman of Suryamer told it me of the Sun- 
Heroes." 

Roy's face flushed up in a second. "Suryamer is 
mine!" he said proudly; "I am of the Sun- 
Heroes!" 

Then he started to his feet, pale as ashes. "I have 
remembered! I have remembered at last," he said 
almost with a cry. "It is true! I was Rajah of 
Suryamer! It has come back to me at last!" 

Then as suddenly he crouched down again and cov- 
ered his face with both hands. 

"Roy!" said little Prince Akbar gravely. "Why 
should you cry because you are a King? I don't." 

163 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

The sentry laughed. "By my word," he remarked, 
"there is a blessed pair of you Kings!" 

"Of course there is," assented the Heir-to-Empire 
with the greatest dignity. "I have been one ever since 
I was born, and I always knew Roy belonged to me!" 
Then in quick impulse he ran over to the Rajput lad 
and flung his arms round his neck crying, "Oh Roy I 
Roy! I'm so glad you are my brother!" 

"Not so fast, young sir," objected the sentry, who 
was hugely amused and interested; "what proof can 
you bring of this, stripling?" 

Roy lifted a scared face ; then hung his head. 

"None, save my memory, and this mark upon my 
breast. My mother said we all had the stamp of truth 
over our hearts." 

The sentry shrugged his shoulders. "That is not 
much in this wicked world," he said carelessly. "And 
anyhow it matters little if either or both of you be 
Kings, since ye are in cruel Kumran's power." 

"Not till my Dearest-Lady returns," dissented 
little Akbar gravely. "Head-nurse said so; and if 
cruel Uncle Kumran is to get me, Dearest-Lady won't 
come back. I know she won't so there!" 

And, as events turned out, the Heir-to-Empire was 
right! 

But a few days afterwards a messenger, bearing a 
blue handkerchief in his hand the sign of death 
tidings to the Royal Family appeared in hot 
164 



IMPRISONMENT 

haste before the nobles assembled in the Audience 
Hall. 

"News! News!" he cried breathlessly. "Cover 
your heads with dust, ye people, while ye thank the 
Merciful One that Khanzada Khanum of the House 
of Babar hath found freedom, that after a long and 
godly life she hath found rest and peace. Bismillah 
ul " 

The long Arabic sentence went rolling through the 
Hall, while Kumran stood stunned by the suddenness 
of his aunt's death. And yet it might have been ex- 
pected; the journey was far too trying for one of 
her years. And she had risked it for what? 

With a rush Kumran realised that his promise still 
held good, and for the moment disappointment, anger, 
savage desire for revenge swept away his regret. Yet 
even he could not fail to be touched by the letter his 
brother Humayon had sent him by the hand of the 
messenger. Dearest-Lady had, he said, pled his, 
Kumran's, cause well, and he, Humayon, was ready to 
forgive for the sake of the dead woman who had loved 
them both, whom they both loved, and who had died 
with a smile. 

But such softer feelings did not, could not linger 
long in a mind that had no fixed belief in anything. 
Before a day had passed the feeling that he had been 
tricked onto an oath he dared not break came upper- 
most again. Foster-father was ordered back to his 

165 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

damp dungeon, the little Heir-to-Empire and Roy 
were taken from the Palace and given over to the 
charge of a man noted for his hardness of heart. Only 
the women and little Bija, being of no account, were 
turned out into the streets to beg or starve as they 
chose. 

Then followed a terrible month in which the little 
party were cut off from news of one another. Only 
Down, the cat, wandering over roofs and Heaven 
knows where and how, looked in here and there to 
settle on some one's lap and purr. 

"Cats," said poor Head-nurse, as she sat opposite 
Foster-mother, grinding for all they were worth at a 
stone hand-mill in order to gain enough to keep Bija 
from starving, "are of all God's creatures the most 
contented ; and so little pleases them. Hark ! to Down 
how she purrs, just because she has found us poor 
miserable women." 

"Allah!" replied Foster-mother more cheerfully. 
"Is love such a little thing? I think not, and Down 
hath seen my darling. Of that I feel sure; she would 
not come and purr otherwise." 

Still it was silent comfort and there was so much 
going on; so much that even the "miserable women" 
could not hear, though they were free to come and go. 
But one day when Down was purring on Bija's lap 
in the straw thatch which was all the three had for 
lodging, a passer-by paused to say: 
166 



IMPRISONMENT 

"That is the cat I used to see with the little King. 
Have you ought to do with him, sister?" 

"I am his sister," replied Bija haughtily, whereat 
the sentry, for it was he, laughed; but for all that he 
paused to tell the two women what he knew; though 
that was not much. It could not be long, however, he 
said, before news of one sort or another came to them; 
for King Humayon was, so they said, within a day's 
march of Kabul, and any time they might hear the 
guns begin. Then would be his turn. He would fight 
till all was blue, and then if the outsiders won, turn 
round and fight for them as hardily, since all he re- 
quired was plenty of fighting and plenty of food and 
wine. 

He was right in one thing. The very next day 
about noon, a sudden pouf bing-bing thud,, told 
that the first shot had been fired. And after that there 
was no peace and little safety. Only Foster-father in 
his dungeon was free even from anxiety; for fever had 
seized on him and he lay unconscious. And in his 
close prison room, where there was little air and less 
light, and where Roy racked his brain for stories 
wherewith to while away the leaden-footed hours, the 
little Heir-to-Empire lay listless also, yet not ill. 
Only weary, weary. 

"I want Tumbu," he would say, "I want to run a 
race with him. I want to be out of doors." 

And so while the city was alive with armed men, 

167 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

when there were assaults and repulses and sorties and 
forlorn hopes going on day after day, Roy would tell 
Mirak that some day something would happen. Some 
day the door would open and 

And one day the door did open. And a tall man 
stood for a second, half -blinded by the darkness. But 
the next he strode forward and caught the little Heir- 
to-Empire to his heart, murmuring, "My son my 
little son!" 

It was King Humayon; for Kumran, after plead- 
ing for a few hours' truce to allow him to make 
submission, had taken advantage of this breathing 
time to make his escape with the more desperate of his 
followers. Pear had overcome him once more. Hav- 
ing nothing in himself on which he could rely, he could 
not trust to the generosity of his brother. 

So, after more than two and a half years of separa- 
tion Akbar found his father again. 



168 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE GARDEN OF GAMES 

AND now, for the time at any rate, Prince Akbar's 
adventures were over, and all the little party prepared 
to enjoy themselves. Foster-father, taken out of his 
dungeon, soon recovered consciousness, and the news 
of King Humayon's victory and the Heir-to-Empire's 
safety, being the best tonic in the world, he was soon 
about again. 

Head-nurse, at last absolutely restored to her 
proper position in Court, found, however, that her 
young charge had considerably outgrown the nursery. 
To begin with, his father, overjoyed at recovering his 
son, could not see too much of him, and took him 
about with him wherever he went. 

"Time enough for his education to begin when he is 
four," said Humayon, when Foster-father pointed out 
that the boy was old beyond his years and that if he 
did not soon begin schooling it would be difficult for 
him by-and-bye. 

"Let be friend, let be!" continued the fond father; 
"let us have a while to amuse ourselves, now the trouble 
is over! I tell you I have been in such straits these 
last four years that I have had no time to amuse my- 
self. Now I mean to show Kabul that life isn't so bad 
after all!" 

169 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

So tall, handsome, good-natured, with a vivid love 
of colour and beauty and a light-heartedness almost 
beyond belief, light-heartedness which had carried 
him through dangers that might have proved too much 
for one less gay Humayon set to work to lavish his 
money on the most magnificent entertainments that 
ever were seen. 

So long as winter lasted these had to be held in the 
Bala Hissar, where a sound of music and a ripple of 
laughter was to be heard day and night; but as spring 
began once more to carpet the barren hills with mil- 
lions of flowers, Humayon's amusements went further 
afield. One day he and his Court, a glittering cohort 
of merry men, flashing with diamonds, and prepared 
to enjoy everything, would ride out many miles to see 
the great groves of Judas trees flushed with their pink 
blossoms; ride out to find a magnificent camp await- 
ing them, a magnificent repast prepared, and all the 
best singers and dancers in Kabul ready to amuse 
them. Then the next day, mayhap, they would all go 
a-hawking, and at each and all of these diversions 
Humayon's little son was part of his father's enjoy- 
ment, and so naturally, became more and more of a 
man every day. 

He used to ride on Horse-chestnut, and Tumbu 
was always of the party, getting in consequence rather 

too fat, by reason of the rich food which was given 

him. 

170 



THE GARDEN OF GAMES 

But despite all this fun and jollity little Prince 
Akbar was not quite satisfied. 

"You took my mother away with you to the hills," 
he would say to his father. "Why didn't you bring 
her back with you? I want to see her." 

Then King Humayon would laugh for he was al- 
ways merry and bid his little son be patient. His 
mother would come with the spring. At present she 
was in Persia, but so soon as the passes were open 
she would start for Kabul. And then there would be 
fun! Whereupon little Prince Akbar would smile a 
dignified smile, and say, of course there would be fun! 

Now out of this arose a plan which came into King 
Humayon's head, as so many other plans came, with- 
out very much thought ; for he was full of kindly, not 
over-wise fancies. And this one was that little Prince 
Akbar should choose his own mother! 

It would be rather a hard task for a child who had 
not seen her for two years and a half, and who was but 
a baby of less than eighteen months old when he had 
parted from her! But Humayon was convinced that 
his son would remember ; and anyway, even if he did 
not, no harm would be done and it would be very 
amusing. So orders were given for a huge entertain- 
ment in the Arta Gardens just outside Kabul. They 
were the most beautiful gardens, not close cropped 
and orderly like English gardens, but with wide, bare, 
marble-paved walks and squares, big marble-stepped 

171 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

tanks full of waterlilies, all set in tangles of wide- 
spread roses and jasmine and gardenia. And here 
Humayon's fancy set up a Mystic Palace of three 
Houses: The House of Pleasure; The House of For- 
tune, and the House of Power. Never was such a 
beautiful Palace. By day it shone with the reflected 
light of thousands and thousands of looking-glasses, 
by night it rose outlined in every detail by thousands 
and thousands of little lamps. Every marble path was 
spread with priceless silken carpets, the very foun- 
tains were scented with attar-of-rose. All the mu- 
sicians and dancers and acrobats and jugglers of 
Kabul were commanded to be there, snow came from 
the higher hills to ice the drinks, and cooks worked 
day and night to prepare the most wonderful 
dishes. 

"That is what I call a King," remarked the Afghan 
sentry, whom Roy, going with his little master to see 
the preparations, found keeping guard at the gate. 
"None of your skinflints like Kumran. Aye !" he con- 
tinued, seeing Roy's look of surprise and distaste, "I 
have done what I said I would fought for Kumran 
till there was no more fighting to be done. And now, 
like His Gracious Majesty King Humayon, I am en- 
joying myself. I want no more! Ha! Ha!" 

Little Prince Akbar, who was standing by, turned 
on him sharply. "Thou art a slave, fellow, and know 
nothing of Kingship. Roy and I do. In his country 
172 



THE GARDEN OF GAMES 

Kings ride and shoot and play polo, and and do 
things. Besides," he added, "I want my mother." 

"Your Highness will have to choose her then, so I 
hear," began the sentry almost rudely, and Roy 
started to rebuke him, but Prince Akbar was first. 

"Of course I shall choose my own mother, slave. 
She is quite different, you know, from any one else in 
the world. Isn't she, Roy?" 

The Rajput lad passed his hand over his forehead. 
"Mine was, Most Noble 1 I should know her again 
if I ever saw her, but I never shall." 

"Say not that, boy," said the sentry, who, despite his 
roughness, had a kind heart and was touched by the 
sorrow in Roy's voice. "I have an old comrade down 
Suryamer way and I will speak to him of thee and 
see what he says ; then who knows but " 

Little Akbar interrupted him gravely. "It is as 
God chooses. Roy always says that. Don't you, 
Roy?" 

"By my word!" said the sentry, saluting, "you are a 
proper pair of Kings." 

There were to be three days festival. On the first, 
that of Pleasure, everybody was to be dressed in 
white, on the second day of Power all were to be in 
scarlet, and on the third, the day of Fortune, the day 
on which little Prince Akbar was to choose his mother, 
every one was to wear green. Head-nurse and Fos- 
ter-mother spent all their time in devising wonderful 

173 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

new designs for their darling's dresses, and Humayon 
himself added many little fanciful touches, for he had 
a most wonderful imagination, and this festival, which 
was to welcome his wife to Kabul and give her back 
her little son, occupied all his thoughts. 

The queen arrived on the first day, but, according to 
custom, in a closed litter, and she went straight to the 
secluded balcony arranged for the royal ladies, whence 
she could see without being seen. So she had the ad- 
vantage of her little son, who, in a magnificent cos- 
tume of white and silver, looked such a darling that 
Queen Humeeda longed to hug him. 

"Has my Amma-jdn come?" whispered the little 
Prince to his father, "is she up there behind the lat- 
tice of roses?" 

"Yea! she is there sure enough, little rogue," 
laughed Humayon. "So give a good look right 
through the flowers." 

"No!" said little Akbar, "I've got to shut my eyes; 
then I can see her with my other eyes." 

But his father was too busy directing the festival 
to hear what he said. 

So the first day passed on and everybody thought it 
was the very finest entertainment that ever was seen. 
But the second day surpassed it. The crowds, all in 
scarlet, filling the gardens, looked like bright roses 
amid the green leaves, and the blare of golden trum- 
pets, the scattering of golden coins as largesse, the 
174 



THE GARDEN OF GAMES 

stately processions of soldiers made it, indeed, a mar- 
vellous show of power; and this was increased by the 
arrival of ambassadors from the Shah of Persia, who 
had so much helped King Humayon. They brought 
magnificent presents and hearty congratulations on 
success. So, nothing was lacking; and at night, lit 
up by red fires, the scene was one never to be for- 
gotten. But with the dawn everything changed! A 
thousand servants set to work, and in one short half 
hour the garden showed green. Green carpets, green 
trees, green water falling from the fountains like 
liquid emeralds. And by-and-bye came green crowds, 
every shade of green mixing and mingling in harmony. 
And inside the arched pavilion of the house of Good 
Fortune were green rustlings of silk, green shimmer- 
ings of satin as three hundred ladies of the Court, all 
veiled with green veils, took their seats in a semi- 
circle. Three hundred ladies in green all dressed 
alike! Which was Queen Humeeda? That, it was 
the part of a child of four to tell, a child who had not 
seen his mother for two and a half years! 

The crowd outside, pale green, sage green, emerald 
green, leaf green, were hushed to silence, waiting; but 
from every thicket of rose and jasmine a chorus of 
singing birds, deftly concealed in cages behind the 
leaves, filled the air as Humayon and his little son 
advanced to take their places. The king was dressed 
in green also, a fine figure in royal robes embroidered 

175 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

with a thousand allegorical designs. He took his seat 
on a golden throne. 

And little Prince Akbar! 

He was the one spot of colour! He was the flower 
of the whole garden! Dressed in rose satin of various 
shades, he looked indeed what Head-nurse had called 
him fondly, thus adding to her string of titles, "The 
Rose of the World." 

And now the great moment approaches ! The little 
fellow takes his stand fearlessly below his father; be- 
fore him the semicircle of green veiled ladies; a hun- 
dred in the first row, a hundred in the second row, a 
hundred in the third row. 

But little Akbar's eyes as he stands there do not 
wander from row to row. To tell the truth, his eyes 
are not open at all ! He has them fast closed ; for so, 
he knows, he can see his mother. 

"Ladies ! Unveil !" comes the king's voice. It sounds 
a little anxious. 

There is a rustling of silks and satins, a faint swish- 
ing of gauze and muslins, and three hundred faces 
flash out, like flowers against leaves, from their green 
draperies. 

Which is Queen Humeeda's? 

For an instant the child stands silent, his lips 
trembling, his face flushing. Then his eyes open and 
he sees something. 

What is it? 
176 



THE GARDEN OF GAMES 

Is one face less smiling than another? 
Where is it? In the first row, or the second row, 
or the third row? 

What matter? There is a glad cry of - 



My Ammsi-jan. There you are!" 
And a little flying figure in rose-coloured satin has 
dashed across the floor to fling itself into the arms 
of Queen Humeeda. 

Little Akbar has found his own darlingest mother, 
and there is not a dry eye in the whole assemblage. 



177 



CHAPTER XIX 

BETWIXT CUP AND LIP 

Now it may indeed seem that all our little Heir-to- 
Empire's troubles were over; but there is still some- 
what to tell of our young hero. To begin with, Queen 
Humeeda was a wise woman, and she saw that it was 
not good for the little lad to be always at play. She 
knew that as a King's son in the East, he would have 
small time after he was ten for schooling, and as he 
was now close on four that did not leave many years 
for teaching. 

So a tutor was found for him; but it is to be feared 
that he was by no means an industrious scholar. In- 
deed, we hear of such dreadful things as playing 
truant, so that when a day was fixed for an examina- 
tion by learned men as to how the Heir-to-Empire 
was getting on with his studies, "at the master moment 
it was found that the scholar, having attired himself 
for sport, had disappeared!" Then his first tutor was 
dismissed because he encouraged his pupil in pigeon 
flying, and we read of his applying his thoughts more 
to dog-fancying and Arab horses than to his books. 
Still he did learn one thing, and a good thing, too. 

The day he was four years and four days old he was 
taught, as all little Mohammedans are taught, to un- 
derstand what he was, what the world about him was, 
178 



BETWIXT CUP AND LIP 

and to recognise that neither he himself, nor the world 
he lived in were the Beginning and the End of all 
things. It was a stately ceremonial, not beautiful, 
and lavish, and expensive like the Festival of the 
Mystic Palace, but one which left its mark for always 
on the mind of the child. 

Despite his dislike to books as the only way of learn- 
ing to be wise, he never forgot the day in the Great 
Mosque, when, before all his relations, he had to stand 
up dressed in his simple every day clothes and take 
the Holy Book from the hands of the high priest. 
And he never forgot the high priest's words : 

"Read in the Name of Him who hath made all 
things in Heaven and earth, and Who hath given men 
power to be wise." 

"Bismillah! Irruhman-nirruheem!" he had an- 
swered as in duty bound, which means, "Thanks be to 
Him who is merciful in this world and merciful in the 
next world." 

In this way young Prince Akbar learned that every 
man has power to be wise, and that the great mystery 
of birth and death is a merciful mystery. 

Thus the summer passed and in early autumn King 
Humayon, who had now wasted nearly a whole year 
in amusement, found it necessary to quell rebellion in 
a neighbouring province. 

So the governorship of Kabul was made over to a 
trusted noble of the Court, one Shurruf Khan by 

179 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

name, who was made as it were Regent for little 
Prince Akbar, who was left with his attendants in 
regal state at the palace in the Bala Hissar, while 
Queen Humeeda went back to India, taking Bija with 
her, on a visit to her mother's relations. 

Roy, whose story had become known in the Court, 
was now made equerry to the young prince, and very 
handsome he looked in his chain armour, with the 
noonday sun all rayed and shiny in gold on his breast, 
in token that he claimed to be a Sun-hero. As, in- 
deed, seemed likely, since the Afghan sentry's old 
Suryamer friend had a tale about a young Rajah who 
had been kidnapped and, it was supposed, left in the 
desert to die. But whether Roy was the young Rajah 
or not, who could tell? They might send the story to 
Suryamer and see what befell. Meanwhile Roy was 
happy, and little Akbar and he became more and more 
like elder and younger brother. How much in after 
years the prince owed to the companionship of this 
friend of his childhood it is impossible to say. Per- 
haps it accounts for the marvellous way in which the 
Great Emperor Akbar ruled his Hindoo subjects. 

Humayon had expected to return in a month's time, 
but luck was against him. A King cannot waste a 
whole year in amusement and so let wicked men have 
time to hatch plots without suffering for it. And 
Humayon did suffer. He had to march and counter- 
march with winter coming on apace, until he was 
180 



BETWIXT CUP AND LIP 

struck down by sudden illness. At first the news 
caused no alarm, for he was known to be strong and 
healthy; but there came a day when folk began to 
whisper that the King was said to be lying uncon- 
scious, that death might come any moment. 

The news stirred the whole city of Kabul to its 
depths. It had but lately passed into the hands of 
Humayon. There were not wanting many who pre- 
ferred Kumran, and Kumran was in exile waiting an 
opportunity. 

And that came with the suddenness of a summer 
storm. One night the gates of the town were closed 
by the Regent Shurruf Khan in Humayon's name; 
the next dawn saw the Iron Entry, after a brief 
scuffle, opened in the name of Kumran! There was a 
rush of armed men through the streets of the town, 
a murder or two of loyal men in high authority. And 
then? 

Up at the Bala Hissar, Foster-father roused from 
his sleep, went in haste to the Regent, expecting to 
hear bugles, to find troops gatherings for defence; 
but the gates of the Fort were open! 

Shurruf Khan was traitor! He had gone over to 
the enemy. Ere an hour was over Kumran, scowling, 
walked up and down the royal apartments, a King 
once more ; but biting his lips and frowning over some- 
thing that stood between him and perfect revenge! 

Foster-father, good old fool, was back in his dun- 

181 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

geon in the well, where this time he would rot. The 
women, as a change, were walled up in a tiny room, 
where, bread and water being thrust in to them, 
they might eat and live, or starve and die as they 
chose. 

But the Heir-to-Empire? What of him? Ah! fool 
that he had been to make that promise to a crafty old 
woman who had died in order to spite him. Kumran's 
anger rose fierce; he would have given anything to 
break his oath; but he could not. He was not strong 
enough; even his wickedness was not real. 

But, short of death, the young heir should have no 
shelter. Kumran flung him into a miserable cell close 
to the Iron Gate and thought no more of him. And 
now, but for faithful Roy, Akbar would indeed have 
been in sorry plight. They had barely enough to eat, 
but Roy stinted himself, eating nothing but the hard 
half-burned crusts of the coarse hearth-cakes and 
excusing himself from even touching the miserable 
mess of pease-porridge on the ground that he did not 
like it. So he grew thin and his brown deer-eyes had 
a startled look. Indeed, he hardly slept at all, but 
watched and dozed beside his little master all night 
long. 

Yet he was always cheerful. Always ready with 
stories and songs. When he could not remember any 
new-old ones, he took to inventing tales of people who 
were always in dangers and difficulties, but who took 
182 



BETWIXT CUP AND LIP 

no notice of them, who went on their way trusting in 
the Truth. 

"For! see you!" he would finish gravely, 

"He who has Truth 
Need fear no ruth." 

So, ever and always his hero came out of his trials 
scathless. 

And, by degrees, this faith in final good grew deep 
into both the boys' hearts, and showed in their very 
faces. 

"By my word!" said the Afghan sentry, whom 
chance one day sent to guard them. "Ye be a precious 
pair of Kings!" 

He could admire them, though he did not seem in 
the least ashamed of having yet once more turned his 
coat ; for he was again on Kumran's side. 

How time passed none of the prisoners cared to 
count. But one day the sudden roar of a great gun 
told them that the city was once more besieged. In 
truth, Humayon hearing, while still on his bed of sick- 
ness, the fatal news of Shurruf Khan's treachery, had 
strained every nerve, ill as he was, to come to the res- 
cue of his little son. It was midwinter, the passes 
were blocked with snow, he and his troops had to meet 
endless hardships ; but at last they were before Kabul 
once more. Camped on the Akaban hill, opposite the 

188 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Iron Gate, the artillery were brought into position, 
the first shot fired. 

It would take too long to follow all the varied inci- 
dents of the siege. But one thing was constant. Night 
after night recruits from inside the town managed to 
scale the walls and join King Humayon's forces. 
They were getting tired of Kumran, who, unable to 
satisfy his cruelty on the little Heir-to-Empire, vented 
it on all and sundry. And day by day as the number 
of the besieged dwindled, bit after bit of the town fell 
into the besiegers' hands, until at last only the Bala 
Hissar remained. But the Bala Hissar is a town in 
itself, and many a time has it withstood a siege suc- 
cessfully. 

Now, however, it was near to the death. There 
could be no more talk or thought of escape. Kumran, 
ever half-hearted, tried it one night and failed, losing 
many followers in the attempt. 

After that his face hardened. He went about 
dreaming of revenge revenge on Humayon, even 
revenge on Dearest-Lady, who had tied his hands. 

"Till I return!" 

No! Dead folks can never return to the worldly. 
Even their memory comes seldom, save to the pure in 
heart. 

And one night he hit on a plan. The fort was 
almost at its last gasp. All day Sumbul Khan, 
Humayon's famous artillery general, had been pound- 
184 



BETWIXT CUP AND LIP 

ing away at the Iron Gate with deadly aim. A few 
more well-sent shots would leave the bastion crum- 
bling, and then 

Then would come the assault through the breach, 
and Kumran knew he could not face it. His force was 
too small. 

So about midnight the door of Akbar's prison room 
was opened and Kumran with a few armed men stood 
within. 

Roy, startled from a doze, was on his feet in a 
second. 

"What want ye?" he challenged fiercely. 

"Let the Hindoo fool alone," said Kumran to those 
who would have seized on the Rajput lad. "All we 
want is the child. Take him, slaves, and be quick 
about it." 

Ere the words were out of his mouth a stalwart man 
bent to lift the sleeping Heir-to-Empire. Roy's sword 
flashed the same second, but, held back by sneering 
men, he was helpless. 

"What want ye with him? I say, what want ye with 
him?" panted the poor lad as he struggled madly. 

Kumran paused at the door to turn an icy cold look 
of cruelty upon him. "What! Thou wouldst know? 
Then thou shalt have it, young idolater. It may cool 
thy hot blood. I will dress him in dust colour like the 
walls of Kabul and hang him over the battlement at 
dawn as a mark for my brother's artillery. Then we 

185 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

shall see the breach in my citadel made! Then we 
shall see my revenge but it will not be of my making ! 
His father shall kill him." 

So with a mirthless laugh he followed his men, who 
were bearing away the Heir-to-Empire, still but half 
awake. 

Roy stood for one second like a stone, too horror 
stricken for full belief; but the echoing laugh con- 
vinced him; with a wild cry he rushed to the narrow 
window and shook fruitlessly at its iron bars like a 
wild animal when it is newly caged. But they were 
immovable. 

Yet something must be done something some- 
thing 

The thought of dawn was too dreadful. The beauti- 
ful, calm, peaceful April dawn, shadowy grey! Just 
light enough to see the outline of the Bala Hissar, just 
light enough to begin upon the breach once more; 
but too dark to see what was in the line of fire. 

Yes! Something must be done, and done swiftly. 
Not four hours left before the eastern hills would be- 
gin to show dark against the coming of day. 



186 



CHAPTER XX 

ESCAPED 

ONCE more Roy felt helpless and hopeless before the 
great task which seemed to be laid upon him. He 
alone out of all the little Heir-to-Empire's guardians 
knew the dire danger he was in. Yet how could he, a 
poor, prisoned Rajput lad, save the young prince? 

Still he had to be saved ; he must be saved ; and there 
was no time to be lost. At dawn the firing would re- 
commence from the Arkaban hill; at dawn the help- 
less child would be in the half -breached bastion ex- 
posed to that fire ! 

Yes ! He, Roy, must get out somehow. If he could 
only loosen one bar of the window so that he could 
squeeze through, then he might be able to let himself 
down by a rope twined out of his long waist-cloth and 
turban! Thus he might be able to get out of the fort! 
He might be able to gain the camp on the Arkaban 
hill before dawn! So he might be able to warn the 
guns not to fire on the bastion; might be able to tell 
them that the Heir-to-Empire hung there! 

What a number of "might be ables" ; but would he 
be able, even for the first task? 

He took up his sword and began forthwith on the 
iron bar; but the mortar was hard, he could scarcely 
make a mark upon it. Still, it must be done. In order 

187 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

to free his arms better for the work he took off all 
his clothes save his flimsy, sleeveless waistcoat and the 
loin-cloth that was girt about him, and buckled down 
steadily. But when more than an hour had passed 
the bar seemed as firm as ever. As he crouched down 
on the window sill he could see through it to the flat roof 
of the neighboring palaces ; for it was a bright moon- 
light night still, though the moon must be nigh to her 
setting. So the thought crossed his mind that if he 
could only squeeze through he might be able to reach 
one of those roofs; since, if he remembered aright, a 
wide cornice ran just below. He paused for a second 
in his labour to see if this was so, craning his head 
through the crossbars. Yes, the cornice was there! 
Scarcely wide enough for a cat to walk, but if he got 
through in time he would risk it. He must risk it! 

But would he get through in time? He set to work 
again feverishly until suddenly a familiar sound 
reached his ear from outside; the sound of a cat 
purring ! 

Could it be Down? She had not found them out 
in their new prison, but if she had happened to be 
on the roof when he looked out of the window she 
might have seen him or smelled him yes ! There was 
a white cat on the cornice, and the next moment Down 
was on the sill, arching her back and purring away 
contentedly. 

So she had found them at last no! not them, for 
188 



ESCAPED 

the Heir-to-Empire was not there he had been stolen 
away! Roy could have leaned his head on Down's 
soft fur and cried his heart out in despair at his own 
helplessness, but he set his teeth instead and dug 
harder with the sword point. 

Would the bar never loosen? So the minutes passed 
without a sound save the grating of the eager sword 
and the soft, soothing purr of the cat as she sat beside 
him watching him indifferently. Then suddenly the 
latter ceased and Down leaped swiftly to the floor of 
the cell. Doubtless she heard something. Cats hear 
so many things humans do not hear, and they seem to 
know so many things humans do not know, so per- 
haps she heard a mouse far down the arched passage, 
or even in the next cell. Anyhow she marched straight 
to the door and stood by it, miaowing to be let out. 
Ah! if he only could let her out! If the door were 
only open, thought poor Roy, as he worked away at 
the still immovable bar. 

"No ! Down, no ! I can't," he murmured bitterly as 
the cat miaowed more and more insistently. 

But still the miaowing went on. Down became quite 
plaintive, then ill-used; finally she leaped onto Roy's 
shoulder, licked his ear with her rough red tongue as 
if to coax him, and was back again at the door asking 
to be let out. 

Why was she so set on it ? Roy turned to look at her 
half stupidly and for a moment forgot his task; forgot 

189 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

how rapidly time was passing; forgot everything save 
that Down was asking to be let out. So wearily he 
passed to the door, and scarcely conscious of what he 
was doing, laid his hand on the latch. 

"I can't, Down," he said; "I can't open" He 
broke off hurriedly. 

For the latch yielded, the door opened!! 

It could never have been locked ! ! 

Had they forgotten, or, having secured the Heir-to- 
Empire, had they not cared what became of the hench- 
man? The latter, most likely, for there was no sentry 
in the arched passage along which Down had already 
disappeared. 

Another second and Roy, sword in hand, had dis- 
appeared down it also, remembering as he ran a cer- 
tain little fretted marble balcony which gave on the 
gardens below. For Roy, of course, knew every turn 
of the Bala Hissar. This balcony opened onto an 
unused gallery room. To gain this, bolt the heavy 
door behind him, and so, secure from interruption, set 
to work twining a rope from strips torn from his tur- 
ban and waistband did not take long; but it was a 
good twenty minutes before he had knotted all fast; 
though while he worked he thought of nothing else; 
of nothing but somehow reaching the garden. Once 
there he would face the next difficulty. One was 
enough at a time. And then, when he had made the 
rope fast to one of the marble pillars and slid down it, 
190 



ESCAPED 

it proved too short. He swung with his feet just 
touching the topmost branch of a blossoming peach 
tree. There was nothing for it but to let go, snatch 
at the branches as he fell and trust to chance for safety. 
He found it ; and dropped to the ground amid a per- 
fect shower of shed peach petals. 

So he stood for an instant to consider what must 
come next. Agate! Aye! but which? The farthest 
from the point of attack would be the best, as there 
would be less vigilance there. That meant the Delhi 
gate, and meant also a long round; yet he must be 
quick, for already there was a faint lightening of the 
eastern sky. But the moon had set and the shadows, 
always darker in the hour before dawn, lay upon all 
things. 

And luckily he knew every turn of the Bala Hissar 
garden, knew every point where danger might be 
expected. So he began to make his way carefully. 
He dodged more than one sentry by creeping on 
through the bushes while the man passed away from 
him, and crouched among them, still as a mouse, while 
the measured march came toward him. And once he 
had to run for bare life from a shower of arrows which 
a company of soldiers sent into the darkness after a 
suspicious rustling in the bushes. But mostly the men 
on duty had too much to think of outside the walls to 
trouble themselves much about the things inside them. 

So with doublings and turnings he came at last on 

191 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

the Delhi gate, a small, round, flat-roofed building 
pierced by a high archway. It was too dark for him 
to see its outline, but he knew it well, and paused 
against the outside wall to consider what he had to do 
next. The place seemed almost deserted, but a glim- 
mer of light from the archway and the even tramp of a 
sentry's footstep told it was not all unguarded. 

What was he to do? It would be useless for him 
to try and steal past the sentry, as the gate beyond 
must be locked, or at any rate bolted and barred. He 
must either, therefore, try and overpower the man or 
else try to gain the flat roof by the stairs of which 
he knew the position and, trusting to find a rope or 
something of the sort in the upper room of the gate, let 
himself down into the ditch outside. 

Now, Roy was a well-grown lad of nigh fifteen, tall 
for his age, and with his light, youthful sinews of iron 
might well be a match for many a man, especially as his 
purpose was like steel, and that is ever half the battle. 
But there was the chance of other soldiers being within 
call, and that might mean failure. Now, that must 
not be. Roy had to succeed he must! 

Therefore the roof was the wiser, safer plan; he 
must make for the stairs, trusting to escape notice when 
the sentry's back was turned. Till then silence! 

But even as he settled this in his mind Fate was 
against him. As he crouched in the darkness some- 
thing cold suddenly touched his face, and the next 
192 



ESCAPED 

moment a clamour of excited yappings and joyful 
barks arose, as something warm and furry and cold 
and slobbery flung itself all over him. 

Tumbu! It could be nothing but blundering, 
bumbling Tumbu! He made one useless effort to still 
the dog, then rose to his feet feeling himself discov- 
ered, prepared to run for it. But it was too late. A 
sentry, lantern in hand, roused by the commotion, 
barred the way. All seemed lost, but a ray of hope 
shone when the familiar voice of the Afghan sentry, 
the unrepentant turncoat, was heard as the lantern 
waved in Roy's very face. 

"By my word, one of the Kings! How come you 
hither at this time o' night, friend?" 

The voice was a little thick, as if the owner, finding 
the quiet of the Delhi Gate wearisome, had sought 
amusement in a skin of wine. 

Roy gave a gasp he was too confused for thought. 
"The dog" he began. 

"Aye ! The dog that was yours and is mine," jeered 
the sentry. "So he nosed you out, did he? Knows his 
duty good dog, Tumbu! Knows his master now! 
Knows who saved him from starvation when he was 
lurking about in the gutter. Eh! you brute!" 

He lunged a kick at Tumbu, who retreated a step, 
looking from the new to the old master, feeling, in 
truth, a trifle confused. For the Afghan sentry had 
certainly found him homeless, friendless, and the dog 

193 

N 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

had stuck by him, feeling that here at least was some- 
thing vaguely connected with the past life. But now 
he stood doubtful, expectant, his little ears pricked, his 
small eyes watchful. 

"Well," continued the sentry with a half -drunken 
laugh, "dog or no dog, you've no business here, so 
come along with me, my King." 

He reached out a heavy hand, and Roy shrunk from 
it. As he did so there came a sound which sent the 
blood to Roy's heart with a spasm of instant hope, of 
possible escape. It was Tumbu's low growl as he 
realised that some one wanted to touch his old master 
and that his old master did not want to be touched. 

"At him, Tumbu ! At him, good dog I" The words 
came to Roy in a flash, and like a flash the great, 
powerful dog leaped forward, his fur a-bristle, his 
white teeth gleaming, and the next instant, taken by 
the suddenness of the attack, the sentry lay on his 
back half stunned by the fall, while Tumbu, on the 
top of him, checked even a cry by a clutch at his throat. 
A soft clutch so far; but one that would tear through 
flesh if needful. 

Roy was on his knees beside the fallen man. 

"Hist! not a sound or the dog shall kill you. He 
can. Give me the keys. I want to get out of the gate ! 
The keys, do you hear?" 

The sentry tried to struggle, but warned by the 
weight of the dog on his breast and those sharp teeth 
194 



ESCAPED 

ready to close upon his throat, murmured hoarsely, 
"It is only barred, but the bolts are difficult. If you 
will let me get up and call off your dog " 

But Roy took no heed of his words. "Keep him 
there, Tumbu," he whispered as he ran to the gate. 

Bolted and barred it was, and in the darkness of the 
archway it was hard to see, for the lantern had gone 
out in the scuffle. But there was no time to lose, for 
already beyond the archway it showed faintly light. 
One bar down! The sentry made a faint effort to 
stir, that was answered by an ominous growl from 
Tumbu. 

Only one more bolt now! 

Roy's long ringers were at it his whole strength 
went to it it creaked groaned slid, and with a sob 
of exultation Roy felt the fresh air of dawn in his face 
as he stood outside the Bala Hissar. 

But he had still much to do. The city must be 
skirted, the hill of Arkaban gained, and already a 
faint primrose streak in the eastern sky told of coming 
light. 



195 



CHAPTER XXI 

DAWN 

UPON the Arkaban hill the artillery men were 
already at work. In those days guns were not what 
they are now, quick loading, quick firing. 

It needed a good hour to ram the coarse powder 
down, adjust the round ball and prepare the priming; 
to say nothing of the task of aiming. So, long ere dawn, 
the glimmering lights were seen about the battery, 
which, perched on a hill, gave on the half -breached 
bastion. Between the two stretched an open space 
of undulating ground. Sumbal, "the master fire- 
worker," as he is called in the old history books, was 
up betimes seeing to his men, and with him came a 
grave, silent man, who, though he had no interest in 
the quarrels of Humayon and his brothers, was as 
eager as any to get within the walls of Kabul and find 
what he sought a Rajput lad of whom word had 
been brought to a little half -desert Rajput state lying 
far away in the Jesulmer plain. 

For the grave, silent man, who showed so much 
knowledge of warfare, who was keen to see everything 
new in weapons and the handling of them, was a mes- 
senger sent by a widowed mother to see if indeed it 
could be her long-lost son, of whom a certain old 
trooper had spoken on his return from Kabul. 
196 



DAWN 

"See you!" said Sumbal, who was a bit of a boaster, 
"give me time to aim and I'll warrant me 'Thunder 
of God' " (that was the name let in with gold on the 
breech of the gun) "will hit the mark within a yard 
every time. Thou shalt see it ere-long. There is a 
sort of pigeon place on the face of the bastion where 
I will aim, and thou shalt see the splinters of it spin!" 
He shaded his eyes with his hand and looked piercingly 
into the shadows. " 'Tis too dark to see it yet, but so 
soon as it shows I will let fly, and then " 

And then? 

Roy, who had never stopped for a breath yet in his 
headlong race, was at that very moment rounding on 
the bastion, and looking up, saw what he had feared 
to see a little figure bound hand and foot to a frame- 
work of wood that hung close to what Sumbal had 
called the pigeon place, seeming to form part of it. 
The child was not crying. Perhaps he was past that. 
Perhaps he had never cried, but had taken this last 
and urgent danger as he had taken others, with grave 
dignity. 

All we know is that he hung there on the wall, and 
that before his very eyes the light was growing in the 
east, and over in the hill battery a dozen men were 
sweating away to bring the "Thunder of God" into 
position. Roy gave a gasp. Should he call to the 
little Heir-to-Empire and let him know that a 
friend was near, that help might come? No! per- 

197 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

haps he did not realise his danger. It was better to 
let be. 

So gathering all his forces for a last effort, he 
dashed into the open for the final five minutes' run. 
And there could be no dodging here. Every loophole 
of the bastion was, he knew, crammed with the match- 
locks of many marksmen. And there was now, worse 
luck, little darkness to cover him! 

"Three minutes more, friend!" said Sumbal boast- 
fully, "and thou shalt see what thou wilt see. Slave! 
the port fire, quick. I will give the signal. Lo ! What 
is up?" 

A rattle of musketry rose on the still air of dawn, 
and an artillery man leaned over the low embrasure 
to see better into the intervening valley. 

"Some one escaping," he said with a yawn, for he 
had been up half the night. "Lo! he runs like a hare! 
But they will have him, for sure." 

"Quick," called Sumbal, "we will silence their noise. 
The portfire, I say. I will fire old Thunderer myself." 

The man carrying the flaming flashlight handed it 
to his superior, but in so doing by some mischance it 
dropped, and in the dropping went out ! 

"Fool!" cried Sumbal passionately. "Are we to 
stand insulted here without reply while thou fetchest 
another? Put him in irons, sergeant, and bring light 
at once!" 

But the grave, silent Rajput was watching the 
198 



DAWN 

runner. "He is but a boy," he said slowly, "yet see 
how he runs. And they have hit him, for he staggers. 
Yet he comes on. He must bring news, friend, for 
sure!" 

"News!" echoed Sumbal contemptuously; "we have 
half a hundred such runaways coming in every day. 
It is no news that King Humayon is better liked than 
Kumran. Lo! hast thou it at last?" He snatched 
the portfire from the sergeant and went toward the 
gun. 

"Stay one moment, friend!" said the grave and 
silent man with sudden command in his voice. "A 
moment's hastiness may bring disaster. Discretion is 
better than valour. Yonder boy brings news he 
waves his arms he shouts ! Stay at least till we can 
hear what he says." 

Sumbal laughed. "Bah! But, see you, I stay my 
hand while I count ten no more." 

"One! two! three! four!" 

The artillery men, amused at the race, leaned over. 
"He runs well! He will win! He will lose! He 
climbs like a hill cat!" 

"Five! six! seven! eight! nine!" 

And now, unintelligible from sheer breathlessness, 
Roy's voice is heard. The grave, silent Rajput leaps 
out to meet him. 

"Ten!" 

Sumbal's hand swings the portfire to the breech. 

199 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

Roy sees it, throws up his arms wildly, and with 
a cry 

"The bastion! The bastion! The Heir-to-Em- 
pire!" falls headlong into the Rajput's arms. 

"What did he say?" asked the master fireworker, 
pausing half surprised, half angry. 

But the Rajput was too busy tearing aside Roy's 
flimsy, bloodstained waistcoat to answer. 

"Something about the bastion and the Heir-to-Em- 
pire, master !" said the sergeant doubtfully. "Mayhap 
'twould be as well to wait till we can see more clearly. 
Kumran," he added in a lower voice, "would stick at 
naught " 

Sumbal hesitated, then put down the portfire and 
walked over to the fallen lad, beside whom the 
stranger was kneeling. 

"He is not dead! He is not dead!" said the grave, 
silent Rajput, looking up, his face working, the tears 
streaming down his bronzed cheek. "My master is 
not dead!" 

"Who?" asked Sumbal, uncomprehending. 

"I knew it must be he !" went on the man exultantly, 
even in his grief. "None could do that sort of thing 
save a Sun hero! My Master! my King! See, here 
the race mark on his breast! The sign of uttermost 
truth! My Master! My King!" 

But Roy did not hear himself called thus. He did 
not even know for days afterwards if he had succeeded 
200 



DAWN 

or if he had failed; for a wound just above the heart, 
close to the sign-mark of his race, very nearly carried 
him off into the Shadowy Land where all things are 
remembered, yet all are forgotten. 

But he had succeeded. He had saved the Heir-to- 
Empire's life that dawn, and a day or two afterwards 
Kumran, daily more hated for his cruelty, had 
escaped, and the soldiers, rejoiced to get rid of him, 
flung open the gates of the Bala Hissar, thus ending 
Prince Akbar's adventures. 

But when Roy came to himself Mirak was sitting 
beside him and Down was purring on Bija's lap ; Bija, 
who had just returned from India with Queen 
Humeeda in time to console the Heir-to-Empire for 
all he must have suffered during the few days he 
was left alone with cruel Uncle Kumran. How much 
he had suffered no one knew, and the little fellow re- 
fused to say anything about it. It was a way he had 
when the luck went against him. So, just as he had 
remarked when he had fallen down the ravine, when 
the white cat and the black dog first came to him, that 
he had "tumbu-down," so now he simply said that it 
wasn't "very comfy," but that Tumbu had come to see 
him more than once. And this was possible, for you 
may be sure that once he allowed the Afghan sentry 
to rise, Tumbu, being a wise dog, never went near him 
again. Therefore he had to find his old master. 

And Foster-father, Foster-mother and Head-nurse 

201 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

were all there, the latter greatly subdued for the time, 
and in her gratitude to Roy inclined to give him some 
of the titles she was wont to bestow on little Prince 
Akbar. 

For there was no doubt whatever that the lad was 
the rightful Rajah of Suryamer, whom wicked rebels 
had exposed in the desert to die, who had been found 
and kept alive by wandering goatherds and had finally 
been discovered when unconscious from sunstroke by 
the royal fugitives. 

And out of this arose the only sadness of the happy 
May days when the little party once more journeyed 
out to Babar's tomb towards evening to sit under the 
arghawdn trees and watch the sunset. 

Of course Dearest-Lady was not there, but all the 
others were assembled, and Down, the cat, purred as 
loud as ever, while Tumbu, the dog, frolicked round 
even more like a golliwog than before. But it was not 
the absence of the Khanzada Khanum which made 
faces thoughtful at times. She, they knew, was at 
rest, and they laid flowers for her beside those they 
gathered in memory of Firdoos Gita Makani on 
whom be peace! 

No! it was the knowledge that Roy could not re- 
main with them. So soon as he was strong again he 
must go back to his mother, go back to a people 
who, tired of rebellion, were longing for their old 
rulers. 
202 



DAWN 

"You see, brother, I am a King," said Roy sorrow- 
fully, "and Kings cannot always do what they like." 

"Do you think they ever do, really?" asked the little 
Heir-to-Empire gravely, "for I don't." 

And here we come to the end for a time at least 
of Prince Akbar's adventures. 

Now, if you want to know how much of this so- 
called veracious story is really true, I cannot quite say. 

Did some one like Roy really tell the master fire- 
worker that the Heir-to-Empire was hung over the 
battlements of the bastion? If some one did not, how 
did the master-fireworker find it out? And he did; 
indeed, in the history books he takes great credit to 
himself for having found it out. But then he was a 
boaster. 

Then did Dearest-Lady really bind Kumran by an 
oath not to harm the Heir-to-Empire until she re- 
turned? 

If she did not, then why did she, an old, frail woman 
of seventy, go out into the wilderness just as winter 
was coming on, and why did not cruel Kumran kill 
the Heir-to-Empire when he had him in his power? 

These are all questions; but what is certain is that 
Baby Akbar did go through all these adventures be- 
fore he was five years old. 

So good-bye, brave little lads ! Good-bye, stout old 
Poster-father and kindly Foster-mother! Good-bye, 
worthy Head-nurse with your strings of titles, and 

203 



THE ADVENTURES OF AKBAR 

good-bye, dainty little Bija! Good-bye also to grin- 
ning Meroo, to purring Down, and frolicking Tumbu! 

And for those other three whose memory remained 
Old Faithful, Dearest Lady, and the Great Em- 
peror, Firdoos Gita Makani, who all helped the little 
prince to safety, what of them? 

"Heaven," as the marble slab among the tulips and 
violets of the Garden-of-the-New-Year says, 

"' Is their eternal abode/ " 



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